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Jenna Arnett joins QOTT Acknowledged Retrainer ranks

22 May 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Growing up around horses throughout her childhood, Jenna Arnett always thought she would be working with them as a full-time profession.

She now has that opportunity to further showcase her skills and experience, joining the Queensland Off-The-Track Program as an Acknowledged Retrainer.

Arnett has taken on the dual role of training both thoroughbreds and standardbreds as part of the program, saying her love for horses had started at a young age.

“My parents got me and my brother ponies and we joined the pony clubs in northern NSW, but Dad had an OTT thoroughbred as his first horse and he went fox hunting and he got really into that and I followed along,” Arnett said.

“My background has been the standard pony club, dressage competitions, fox hunting, eventing, and then when I left school, I worked with horses in a whole bunch of different jobs for about five or six years.

“I got my first thoroughbred when I was 12, had my first job as a stable hand and trackwork rider when I was 15 in country NSW - I think I’ve just always been drawn to the breed because they’re so versatile and so exciting.”

Arnett’s life with horses has taken her all over the world, including working in hunting and show jumping stables in Ireland, caring for World Equestrian Games endurance horses in Florida, dressage training in Spain and completing the world’s longest annual charity horse ride – the Gobi Gallop in Mongolia.

But it was in Clarence Town, a tiny town in the Hunter Region of NSW, where she first fell in love with horses and then learnt her craft through working at the Muswellbrook Racecourse.

Jenna Arnett.

She eventually headed north to Queensland with husband Matt, spending time in Hervey Bay and Mt Isa before finally settling north of Townsville in Bluewater.

It was there that Arnett started a full-time horse training and coaching business in APH Equine Services, which retrains and rehabilitates horses, while also offering pre-race training.

“There are some horses that have come in here that can’t even walk in a straight line, and then they leave my rehab program and they are winning races,” Arnett said.

“We’ve also had horses that have come off the track, spent some time in retraining and have then found the most beautiful homes with beautiful people that have really appreciated them, which is awesome.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Northern Queensland and North-West Queensland, it’s always been pretty obvious that the off-the-track horses up here have fewer post-racing options.

“Becoming a QOTT Acknowledged Retrainer is a way I can give back because I have had some brilliant riding experiences and retired racehorses have given me so much personal development and joy so I feel like I can pay it forward a little bit.”

The property currently has 10-12 horses in full-time work, with Arnett’s clear favourite being former racehorse Saltwater Sledge who last raced in Cloncurry in 2019.

While most of the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers specialise in either thoroughbreds or standardbreds, Jenna is relishing the challenge that comes with retraining both breeds.

Jenna Arnett competing in showjumping.

“They are completely different breeds and have completely different retraining processes but the reality is that it’s the same goal and the same sort of steps that we go through,” Arnett said.

“Most of them get a bit tense with pressure at the start, and they don’t really understand what you are asking – you are basically changing these horse’s perceptions of what the rider is asking them to do.

“The best part for me is seeing the turnaround from a tucked-up, tight and tense racehorse to the relaxed, social horse.

“I love to see the horse that can be in a paddock with another one and stand in a pony club troop line - that’s the rewarding part when you can show them confidence in a heap of different situations.”

With over 30 years of riding experience to her name, Arnett is buoyed by the support offered to her through the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers Program.

“It’s so nice to see all the energy and the effort that Racing Queensland have put into the life after racing,” she said.

“It’s promising, and it’s exciting and I love the new nutrition program - it’s got some really good information in it.

“For people like myself that have been in the business for three years, there’s no way I could financially retrain racehorses and keep my head above the water.

“But because of the funding available from QOTT, I’m now able to give a little bit back to these horses, more than what I could before.

“The QOTT Program has gifted small retraining businesses the ability to add back where we couldn’t prior, so I’m a big fan of it.”

Click here for more information on the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers Program.

Photo credits: Visual Essence Photography, Crystalyn Photography and Jordan Wicks Photography.