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School’s out for new QOTT Acknowledged Retrainer

13 June 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Alex Kelly admits there were times as a kid when she should have been inside studying instead of spending time outside with her horses.

But it’s those childhood choices that are now paying off for the new Queensland Off-The-Track Acknowledged Retrainer.

The 28-year-old trains both thoroughbreds and standardbreds on her property in Widgee, just west of Gympie.

Kelly is grateful for the opportunity to convert her passion for horses into a full-time career.

“I’ve spent the last 15 years with everybody telling me that I need to go and get a proper job - so I greatly appreciate that this can be my proper job and the QOTT Program certainly helps that,” Kelly said with a laugh.

“It’s wonderful - I enjoy working outside with the horses every day and I honestly don’t consider it a job, I would do it for free.

“We’ve had a lot of off-the-track horses over the years, and I was thinking I would love to do more within the community.

“It’s just finding some support and back up behind you, so I think QOTT is a great program for that support and getting education out into the community.”

Alex Kelly has joined the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers Program.

Kelly and husband Jack currently house 10 horses on their 20-acre hobby farm, five of which are in the QOTT Program (three thoroughbreds and two standardbreds).

The couple is committed to regenerative agriculture on their property, regularly rotating their horses throughout the paddocks every two to three days.

Traditionally being involved in retraining thoroughbreds, Kelly was keen to take on the challenge of handling standardbreds.

“I haven’t had a lot to do with standardbreds before – I’ve always been into gallopers, but I actually really like standardbreds, I might be a convert!” Kelly said.

“I thought I would just give them a go - I teach a fair bit, and we always get standardbreds in in my clinics and they’re always quiet, lovely horses to deal with.

“Probably just usually across the board we see them lacking a little bit of education so I’m keen to get in and see what I can do with them.

“There are different horses for different needs too - we specialise mostly in ladies returning to riding and building confidence, and I thought if standardbreds are nice and quiet, it’s probably a bit more suited to that demographic too.”

Alex Kelly at her Widgee property.

Kelly grew up in Kingaroy in a family that includes a veterinarian father, as well as both parents riding at a high level for Western events.

She has also been involved in pony club, hacking, and English and Western disciplines since childhood, including winning a Horsemanship Freestyle event at the Fraser Coast Interschool Championships.

“I can’t really remember a time we haven’t had a bunch of horses in our paddock - I got my first pony when I was two and never looked back,” Kelly said.

“I was homeschooled for most of my schooling life and there was probably a lot of times where I was outside riding horses rather than inside doing my schoolwork when I should have been.

“If I wasn’t out riding horses, then I was in the other side of Dad’s ute driving around and treating horses, so I was very lucky that way.

“There’s probably a lot of handling and horse care that I do that I think is common sense, when it’s probably not - it’s just all been background-based.

“I went to my first horsemanship clinic when I was 14 and hit the ground running with that, and basically within a year I was training everybody’s horse around my neighbourhood that would let me touch them.”

Kelly acquired her first off-the track-horse when she was 17.

Her success stories so far have included former galloper Chapel Road, who was retired in 2022.

After 40 starts that included racing at Caulfield, and across regional Queensland and Victoria, the horse they called “Chappy” took to retraining like a duck to water.

Alex Kelly will retrain both thoroughbreds and standardbreds.


“He was only with us for about 50 days, but it was just incredible to see,” Kelly said.

“He had been off the track two weeks when he came to us, and within 40 days we were roping stuff off him and dragging logs and cutting cows out - he was a really cool horse.”

Kelly is still also a keen attendee of regular horsemanship clinics to continue learning from the best.

She is keen to see the QOTT Program continue to grow and educate the horse-loving community on the value of OTT horses.

“I think it’s a great program - I think it provides a lot of very good support and a lot of very good education for not only us as retrainers, but the general population when they’re buying off-the-track horses,” she said.

“A big problem that I have seen as an instructor is people that don’t really have a great idea of how to feed or look after an off-the-track horse to keep it in optimal health.

“From what I’ve seen, there’s so much education coming through the QOTT portals so I think that’s wonderful.

“We’re seeing some very good horses being turned out especially coming through a transition program like the retraining process.

“You’re getting a horse essentially that’s had a bulk deal of exposure coming from the track and they’re usually really good to handle as a general rule, floating and feeding and everything like that.”

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