Students becoming ‘Thoroughly Schooled’

By Mark Brassel

A five-day Racing NSW training initiative called ‘Thoroughly Schooled’ – delivered in partnership with Training Services NSW, Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association and TAFE NSW at Scone – has proved highly successful.

The program incorporated practical skill sets including a four-hour work placement on a stud farm and racings stables and received Government funding via Training Services NSW.

The aim of the program is to build on the career aspirations of students who have expressed an interest in pursuing a career within the equine industry.

“This program provides an immersive career and industry exposure opportunity within the local community and incorporates critical employability skills,” explained Stu Rich, Executive Officer for NSW TRB Training Ltd.

“Based upon the 2021 recommendations of the pilot program and evolving from the August and October 2022 programs, the design of the Thoroughly Schooled 2023 program attracts Year 10 to12 school students from targeted regions of New South Wales as a career immersion program into the equine industry, with a specific focus on Thoroughbred breeding and racing streams.”

Some of the objectives of the project are:

  • Building capabilities among students in the skills and knowledge needed for post-school employment and training in the equine industry
  • Inform and promote the diversity of career opportunities in the equine industry
  • Establish partnerships between participating stud farms and racing stables and schools around NSW for future collaboration

Performance outcomes included a greater awareness of the equine industry and diversity of careers available, receiving practical non-accredited skill-sets relevant to the industry, site visits and introductions to influential employers and stakeholders in the equine industry and work experience on both a breeding stud farm and racing stables.

Some of the activities these students participated in included non-accredited training by TAFE NSW across 2½ days consisting of classroom lessons focused on Thoroughbreds and the racing industry, practical lessons on horse-handling skills and Work, Health & Safety tutelage.

There were also bus tours to key industry partners such as Scone Race Club, Godolphin’s Kelvinside and Woodlands, Arrowfield Stud and Scone Equine Hospital.

The Thoroughly Schooled program was promoted to local schools in the Hunter & Central Coast region, New England, Mid & North Coast, Far West and Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.

An excursion package form was created that coalesced various forms detailing accommodation, duty of care, insurance, transport, TAFE enrolment and Risk Assessment.

Middlebrook Station accommodation was sourced with a capacity for up to 18 students.

HTBA coordinated transport for the students to be picked up from their accommodation and transported to TAFE Equine Campus and to venues across the week.

Training took place on TAFE NSW’s Equine Campus in Scone and all students handled multiple horses during the practical activities that included horse behaviour, handling, grooming and horse control and care.

All students undertook two mornings of observational work experience with a racing stable and a Thoroughbred breeding stud. Participating in the program were Glastonbury Farm, Vinery Stud, Ridgmont Farm and Newgate Farm.

Racehorse trainers that participated were Luke Pepper, Cameron Crockett, Stephen Jones, Scott Singleton, Brett Cavanough and Rodney Northam.

Stu Rich said: “Overall, the program structure goes from strength to strength and from an industry perspective there is an appetite to run at least two of these programs per year to showcase the industry to more Year 10 to 12 students across NSW with future delivery of the program anticipated again at Scone during 2024.”

Chasing Dreams In The Saddle

By Abby Delucyk

When envisioning a typical 16-year-old girl, you might not imagine her going to bed at 8pm with the aspiration of waking up early at 4am to ride trackwork. However, for Poppie Gorton, this is her dream life.

Poppie was inspired by her mother’s love of horses from an early age and had a dream to pursue her love of riding. “My grandma made me a rocking horse when I was born and apparently, I just refused to get off and would stay there all day,” Poppie said.

Poppie began riding at the tender age of three, and her competitive spirit led her to enter her first competition at just six years old in Scone. While she only attended Pony Club twice, Poppie consistently took riding lessons and gradually progressed to participating in clinics. She has been fortunate to have the same coach, Sandy Lucas, for 13 years.

Poppie’s passion for Thoroughbreds is evident through her proud ownership of five off-the-track Thoroughbreds. “I love that with horses, you have a built-in best friend. They aren’t just built for going fast, they actually love their next job and are so versatile. I was drawn into eventing because of the adrenaline rush you get doing three disciplines in one,” she said.

With multiple competitions under her belt, Poppie shifted her focus to the Inaugural Equimillion competition, featuring $1,000,000 in prizemoney. “I didn’t have high hopes leading into the event as I had an injury 2 months before so only really had a few weeks to prepare.” Despite this, Poppie exceeded expectations and was crowned Grand Champion of her class, taking home an incredible $15,000 in prize money.

As Poppie invested her time into riding, school started to become a second option. Eventually, she made the decision to leave school at the end of Year 10.  

With her riding skills advancing, a friend named Rosie introduced her to the world of race riding. This new career path hadn’t crossed her mind until she saw a video of Rosie galloping down the straight where her interest was immediately provoked. Through Rosie, she was introduced to well-known Hawkesbury trainer, Brad Widdup who saw talent in this rising star.

With Brad’s support, Poppie’s parents agreed to her joining the local Hawkesbury stable as a trackwork rider. As her journey progressed, Brad suggested that Poppie explore the role of an apprentice jockey, considering her lightweight frame.

“Working with Brad is everything I’ve wanted and more. The whole Widdup family has supported me, and it feels more like I am working with a family. They understand I am still young and learning”, Poppie said.

Poppie is now on the path to becoming an apprentice under Brad, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of legendary jockeys like Kathy O’Hara and Rachel King. She sets her short-term focus on obtaining her apprentice license and working towards her first jump out.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. It is hard at times to see your friends go out while you’re in bed early, but I know in the long run, everything will be worth it,” Poppie concludes.