AS we move from autumn to winter, the campus has been a hive of activity with young trainees stepping into a career being joined by industry staff learning new skills and next generation riders getting a taste of what the future may hold for them.
Our 26 trainees have just completed their initial foundation training and the first group of nine riders commenced their work placements this week with early morning dispersal to Curragh yards and beyond followed up with excited chatter on their return each day at lunchtime.
The first term has flown by and our instructor team have really ramped up the efforts to ensure every trainee is at a good level when commencing their placement and ready to contribute effectively in the workplace.
They have all benefitted from expanded access to the Curragh training grounds and received lots of coaching on the gallops and schooling grounds plus done some stalls training.
More intensive tuition on horse care and stable management has included clipping plus practical demonstrations with the vet and farrier.
Fitness and conditioning sessions have been augmented by modules on mental skills development and they have had the opportunity to spend some time with visiting top jockeys such as Davy Russell and leading apprentices Dylan Brown McMonagle, Shane Crosse and Mikey Sheehy.
As well as their classroom modules, an important aspect of this programme involves providing a practical induction to the broader industry and the many varied and related paths that a career in racing can take.
Visits to stud farms, race courses, sales events and other establishments are part of this learning and the group recently had an enjoyable ‘trip to Tipp’ which included visits to Coolmore Stud, the Fethard Horse Museum and Minella Racing.
John Nallen and his team at Minella were extremely generous with their time and hospitality and provided many good insights and life lessons to this novice group in what was a memorable visit made all the more special by the trophies on display from their stellar successes in 2021.
Junior Academy popular for our future pony stars
THE pony racing associations have reported an explosion of interest amongst young people over the course of the pandemic and the evidence is clear with a long list of applicants lining up for a recent series of highly successful Junior Academy days we delivered in association with the various regions and which attracted next generation riders from all corners of the country.
Antoinette Gallagher, Colm Sayers and other regional organisers have been doing great work with this new wave of prospects and it was a great sign of hope for the racing industry to see droves of youngsters from the age of eight to 16 who all have a passion for the horse and an ambition to be jockeys.
The more advanced group, who were set to ride in the exhibition race at the Curragh, received video coaching on the training grounds and simulator training while the more inexperienced groups all received coaching and instruction to suit their levels including some schooling work, cantering on the gallops and simulator training.
These Junior Academy days provide an opportunity for us to engage with these riders and their families and to promote the options available for employment and progression within the racing industry.
It is clear that the pony racing circuit is a hugely important recruitment base for future jockeys and that it offers an important spark for future ambitions.
It is also evident that our industry needs to engage constructively with the good work being done by the associations and to offer more structured pathways for these young riders based on their development needs so as to lead to sustainable careers.
There is much more that we can collaborate on and it is hoped that the success of these days will lead to further progress which will benefit everyone involved in the future.
OFFERING more training and development opportunities to industry staff is a central part of the strategy for HRI/EQUUIP and we have been involved in the design and delivery of many of these courses over recent months.
Riding improvement and schooling progression courses have been well received and offered on a flexible basis over several afternoons while our mobile training unit has visited yards around the country and is available for trainers to support staff coaching at times that suit their schedules.
The latest example of good collaboration and engagement with industry needs involved the provision of fence stewards’ safety training for racecourse staff from Fairyhouse, Navan and Leopardstown.
This provided ground staff and fence stewards with the skills, knowledge and confidence to react to any dangerous situation that may arise and enhance the safety of horses, jockeys, medical personal and racecourse staff.
All participants greatly enjoyed the experience of horse handling and exposure to practical skills and first responder training and it is hoped this programme will now be rolled out to a wider range of courses.