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HORSE SENSE: What equine courses does Ireland have to offer?
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HORSE SENSE: What equine courses does Ireland have to offer?
on 08 June 2018
The Leaving Certificate has begun, so Jennifer Micklem Diamond takes a look at the third level equine courses on offer in Ireland

AS the Leaving Certificate gets underway and as new initiatives are launched to encourage young breeders and producers back into the industry, we take a look at the third level options available to young people in Ireland who are interested in pursuing a career with horses.

There are a range of different equine courses available in Ireland, many of which have a unique focus. Some courses are run by or connected to universities or institutes of technology, while others are independent.

The CAO change of mind date is July 1st 2018.

This list gives a brief overview of some of the main equine courses available in Ireland. If you are considering doing one of these courses, we recommend you get in touch with colleges directly.


This three-year, Level 8 degree covers a range of modules, including accounting, management, digital marketing, economics and event management. The course usually has an intake of fewer than 30 students every year.

There is also an option to study abroad or do a year’s work placement. The career options from this course usually lead to management roles at stud farms and racetracks, as well as different marketing roles.


This is a Level 8 course run over four years. The first two years cover a wide range of science, agricultural science and business subjects. Third and fourth year are more equine specific. Some of the topics covered in the course include nutrition, animal science, genetics, communications and business.

The course involves practical learning carried out at UCD’s Lyons Research Farm and anatomy class at UCD’s Veterinary Hospital. A five-month professional work placement is a compulsory part of this degree. Work placement helps students choose their career path and to meet industry experts. Past students have completed their work placement all over the world.


Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) is a unique not-for-profit educational initiative. The trainee jockey programme at RACE has run for over 35 years. A number of graduates from the programme have gone on to have international success on the racetrack.

RACE runs a number of different courses, including one-day courses, a trainers’ licensing course, future jockey course, and further education classes. The criteria vary for each individual course at RACE.



These two colleges combine to run equine-based business courses at different levels. The Level 6 Higher Certificate in Business in Equine is a two-year course. Students spend first year based at Gurteen and second year in Athlone I.T., spending one day a week in Gurteen.

Students can progress from the Level 6 course to the Level 7 Bachelor of Business in Equine. This requires doing an additional year in Athlone I.T. The course enables students to focus on specialised equine business knowledge and it has a number of additional business modules.

For students who have completed the Level 7 course they can go on to the Level 8 Business Degree in Athlone. This is not equine specific but gives students an option to further their learning and to translate their skills back into the equine industry.

While students are studying at Gurteen College they have the option to have their horse stabled on campus on DIY livery.


The CAFRE campus in Enniskillen offers one of the widest range of equine courses in Ireland. All of the courses in Enniskillen are very practical and over the last 25 years the college has built up a number of industry connections.

The BSc in Equine Management is validated by Ulster University. The course covers topics including business management, breeding and equine performance science, along with many more modules. The college also offers a foundation degree in Equine Management, farriery programmes, and Level 2 Apprenticeship in the equine industry.


The BHS operates across Ireland, running training and assessments at all levels. The BHS holds professional exams which are globally recognised. The BHS offers career pathways for professional grooms, riders and coaches. There are nine training and assessment venues across Ireland.

The BHS works with the Pony Club Proficiency tests so students can start higher up on the BHS ladder depending on how many of the Pony Club Proficiency tests they have successfully completed. The BHS also runs First Aid courses around Ireland.


Godolphin Flying Start is a unique management and leadership scholarship that specialises in the international thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

This is a worldwide programme, giving graduates professional training and experience. The programme aims to produce committed industry leaders working in existing and emerging markets contributing to the long term success of the thoroughbred industry.

Accredited by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Godolphin Flying Start is validated by the success of its alumni and the recruitment of graduates by thoroughbred industry leaders. The blend of professional, personal and experiential learning in a thoroughbred business environment across five countries is a model for success.


There are number of equine course run across the United Kingdom. For many Irish students these courses can offer an ideal stepping stone into the equestrian workforce.

Like the courses on offer in Ireland, the courses in the UK varying in length and standard.

Some of the most popular equine colleges in the UK include Hartpury, Bishop Burton and the Royal Agricultural College.


Kelley Hutchinson has represented Ireland at Young Rider Eventing Europeans and has also won individual and team silver at the World Student Games. When it came to choosing her college course she was adamant to study something that genuinely interested her. Equine Business in Maynooth did just that.

Kelley graduated last year and is now managing an equestrian sales and production yard. She told The Irish Field how she found the course: “The course is very practical with accounting modules that have stood to me having left college. Although it is called equine business, those looking to go into the course don’t be fooled – it is a Level 8 business degree. The equine element is the smaller part of the degree. I can safely say, having graduated in 2017 the course has without doubt helped me progress into where I am now.”

Leona Hughes also studied Equine Business at Maynooth. She explained why this was an ideal course for her. “I was brought up in the thoroughbred industry and knew it was where I wanted to remain for my future career. The beauty of the equine business degree at Maynooth is that although you are effectively studying about an industry that you love, you are also gaining an all-round knowledge of the day to day running of a business, you aren’t segregated to the one career path.”

Since completing her degree Leona has done the ITBA Next Generation Programme and, from her placement in that, she has secured a full-time position as a marketing assistant with Punchestown Racecourse.

Clare Brown went to Hartpury College to study BSc in Equine management. Clare had previously worked as a groom with international Irish event rider Camilla Speirs. She explained that the course had a range of modules and the assessment was based on exams and presentations.

Clare struggled to find employment options to suit her when she finished college. She suggested: “I think Hartpury should have offered more trips to yards/equine businesses from the beginning to the end of the course. I think that maybe it would have helped with decisions as to what modules to choose and our dissertation topics.”

She continued on to explain how she thinks Ireland and the UK have different career opportunities: “I think England does have lots of jobs opportunities, if you know where to look, that we lack back home, particularly in the North. I think the focus is around practical yard work in Ireland as opposed to work maybe not relating directly to yard work/grooming.”

Rebecca McKee gradated top of the 2017 class in the BSc course in Equine Management in Enniskillen. Rebecca made the most of her time in Enniskillen.

She said: “I have enjoyed all aspects for my time at CAFRE, taking part and organising a range of extracurricular activities and outings as well as getting involved in the equitation yard and travelling to shows with the college horses. I particularly valued the opportunity to become involved the daily management of the breeding unit and preparing the young stock for the foal sales and I just completed training at Castle Leslie.” Rebecca now plans on getting a masters degree.

Sarah Gelletlie studied Animal Science – Equine in UCD, graduating last September. Sarah explained how she enjoyed the mix of topics covered in the course. She found that guest lecturers and field trips helped students get an insight into the industry.

Sarah told The Irish Field her highlights and what she is doing now: “One of the highlights of the course was the five-month work placement in third year, which gave students the opportunity to go out and work in the industry. Having grown up and worked with horses my whole life, I decided not to go and work on a stud farm or a yard and I was lucky to be given an opportunity to work in the RDS Equestrian Office. I gained invaluable experience throughout my work placement, which definitely stood to me when applying for jobs and in my current role. I am doing a two-year graduate programme with Red Mills.”

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