It’s courses for horses as interns saddle up

Business student Harrison Edwards had never ridden a horse nor even walked into a stable ­before this week.

Fresh out of school, the 19-year-old says he knows a thing or two about the racetrack, but when it comes to the finer points of thoroughbred breeding, horse handling or bloodstock auctions he’s a self-confessed novice.

Mr Edwards and his peer Georgia Gumm, 16, are on a steep learning curve, working with some of the country’s best trainers and breeders, getting their hands dirty in the stables, feeding, ­saddling and grooming some of the country’s most promising yearlings.

“Working around the stables and getting experience handling horses is something I’ve never done … I’ve hardly been around horses,” Mr Edwards said.

“But working with these amazing horses is a thrill,” he added.

Mr Edwards and Ms Gumm are among the first interns to join the fledgling Silverdale Academy, a new intern program designed by the Australian Turf Club and TAFE NSW and launched to counter the acute skills gap across the racing and breeding industry.

The program, according to influential breeder Steve Grant, introduces TAFE students to the different career paths available across the industry, hoping interns can get an early taste of what opportunities exist in the business of racing and breeding.

Mr Grant, who owns Silverdale Farm in the Southern Highlands and is spearheading the TAFE NSW collaboration, said the breeding and racing industry had never established apprenticeships and always relied on people moving into the industry.

“If you think of a carpenter, they’ll have a three- or four-year apprenticeship, but our industry doesn’t really have that, so we’re trying to get that started with this new TAFE collaboration.

“We need to entice people into the industry before they find their career, because what we’ve found is so many people transfer into it later on in life,” Mr Grant said, adding that the industry in Australia had become heavily reliant on inter­national employees.

“A lot of people would not necessarily look at our industry straight out of school, but it’s about the third-largest employer in Australia, with 75,000 jobs, and there’s all sorts of skills people can learn, whether it’s horticulture, hospitality, trackwork, becoming a vet nurse or a breeder.”

When he devised the program, Mr Grant said it was important it involved TAFE NSW, where he previously studied before becoming a breeder.

“At school, I suffered from dyslexia and really struggled with a learning disability,” he said.

“Even though I was a good student, I just couldn’t seem to get the marks. So when I put this scheme together it was really important to me personally that it involved TAFE.”

The program, which draws together some of the biggest names in Australian horse racing and breeding – including Gai Waterhouse, Gary Portelli and William Inglis – is set to expand across the state’s leading racing venues.

Article courtesy of The Australian, written by Nicholas Jenson

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