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Immersive experience for next generation of racing industry

2 April 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Racing Queensland and the Australian Industry Trade College are working together to unearth the next generation of workers in the racing industry.

Ten students recently experienced the behind-the-scenes operations of the thoroughbred industry at Eagle Farm and Deagon, working closely with trainer Patrick Busuttin.

The immersive experience included grooming, saddling, feeding, hosing and scraping horses, learning how to check for injuries, talking with trackwork riders, taking horses for a swim, and loading them on to floats.

The group also learnt about the Queensland Off-The-Track Program from RQ Senior Animal Care Manager Kim Duffy.

The morning of work contributed towards the completion of the Certificate II in Racing (Stablehand) for the students, which is run through the AITC.

The course includes six weeks work in the classroom, as well as six weeks spread across working with trainers, in the hospitality space and in track maintenance.

Trainer Patrick Busuttin with students.

RQ Industry Educator Jeff McKay said the experience gave students the opportunity to get a taste for all avenues of racing.

“What we’ve found is that they’re kids who love horses primarily and 98% of them will go into the stablehand area, but it does give them an option to do something outside,” McKay said.

“We’re hoping they’re going to be stablehands primarily, because the industry does need stablehands and from there they’re going to move on to be trackwork riders and maybe even some of them want to be jockeys.

“We need to have that basic love and we need to find kids that want to do the job, because racing will be around for forever hopefully and we need to have well-trained people and people that love the animal.”

Students learning to scrape as part of their Certificate II.

The AITC Equine Academy was originally started in conjunction with the Gold Coast Turf Club in 2022, with five students the first to graduate out of the academy last year.

The success of the program has now seen it expand to incorporate academies in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba, with plans to establish a program in Victoria over coming years.

AITC Industry Engagement Officer – Equine Divina Jenks said the program was already showing signs of success for students.

“We’ve had young people working for racing trainers on the Gold Coast like Adam Campton, as well as Chris Waller Racing, so they’re all really happy with it so far,” Jenks said.

“We think it’s really important for young people to come into the industry and not just any young person but those with an education as well.

“It’s why we think getting their Year 12 certificates is really important just to help them with that career longevity as well, and they can progress through to becoming a trainer or foreman or whatever they want to do.

“We’ve got a few students that are looking at being a farrier, any kind of equine industry professional like body work and equine dentistry and those kind of things.”

Students learning how to saddle a horse at Deagon.

The experience has proved invaluable for students Caity Bridges and Sienna Simpson, who are already looking ahead to their future careers.

“We have learnt to connect with others and experience what it’s like getting up early, seeing the horses go out, just being able to talk to the jockeys and learn about how they deal with all of it and what they do,” Bridges said.

“I would like to possibly go into breeding - I just think it’s an interesting part of the equine community and I love it.”

Simpson added: “I think it’s really good that it gives you like a jump start in your career.”

“We get to make so many connections because we’re meeting trackwork riders, trainers, stewards - you wouldn’t get that at any other school or if you came here and just decided to work as a stablehand.”

Click here to learn more about RQ’s education courses.

Click here to learn more about the AITC.

RQ Industry Educator Jeff McKay with student Caity Bridges.