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Stud Start: nurturing new beginnings

Earlier this year, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) announced Stud Start, an intensive, 10-day classroom introduction to breeding, followed by a work placement on an industry stud farm. This new course would differ from the well-established Fast Track program in that it was aimed at students of all ages, and in particular those with careers in other industries that might be looking for a tree change.  

“Fast Track is aimed at young people coming into the industry, and often it’s their first job,” said TBA’s Tom Reilly at the time. “Stud Start, on the other hand, is really aimed at people who are perhaps in a different career and are thinking about a change, who maybe haven’t worked in the industry but who are looking at it, thinking they might be interested in it.”  

TBA Stud Start enrolled six students. They ranged from ages 29 to 49, and they spanned such careers as the defence force, plumbing, factory work and mortgage broking. They come from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, representing exactly the spread of experience that TBA expected of its inaugural class.  

The six students commenced their 10-day classroom session at Scone TAFE, after which they would respectively take a one-month working placement on an industry farm.  

Robert Murphy is completely new to horses. He has come to Stud Start from the Australian Defence Force. TBA spoke to him one week into the course. 

“I was in the army for 18 years,” he said. “We [have connections with] Soldier On, which helps veterans transition into the civilian workforce, and I heard about TBA through Soldier On. I was in the infantry corps for 18 years and got discharged as a platoon sergeant.”  

Murphy had no experience with horses when he enrolled in Stud Start, but he was aware of equine therapy when it came to veteran recovery. Based in Newcastle, he thought the Stud Start program was ideally local.  

“I medically discharged from Defence in February with PTSD,” he said. “I know what equine therapy can do for such cases, so I have a passion for not only helping myself, but wanting to help an animal on a day-to-day basis. My skills, from a day-one member of Stud Start to now, have definitely improved, and not just through the knowledge presented to us by the instructors. The hands-on experience has been amazing too.”  

Murphy said the week of learning had been good for him. “From me first touching one of the horses that is currently at the TAFE here at Scone, I just felt a calming presence within myself,” he said. “Horses can provide so much. I definitely want to stick with the thoroughbred industry when this is all done, but it’s too early to say what, exactly.” Murphy will spend his month’s farm placement with Tony and Aaron Bott at Evergreen Stud Farm. He’s looking forward to it.  

“To be honest, I’m happy cleaning up after the horses, feeding or mucking out,” he said. “Once I get that month on the stud farm, I’ll have more of an idea of the direction I want to go. Maybe a barrier attendant or working in the mounting yard at Newcastle… I’m open to anything.”  

The Stud Start students have six very different stories and, eventually, will have six very different outcomes for the industry.  

Across the last week, the Stud Start students have tuned into [industry mentor] James Bester, but they’ve also visited Yarraman Park, Vinery and Darley studs, Kia Ora, the Hunter Equine Hospital and Justin Drake’s race educating and training operation at Scone Racecourse. It’s a whirlwind experience, delivering the very best of the Hunter Valley industry in a 10-day package. 

 The teaching team at Scone TAFE that is handling Stud Start is the same team behind Fast Track. TBA has a similar commitment to Stud Start as its flagship Fast Track program, and Madison Tims, TBA’s education and project manager, is hopeful that the new program will become an industry staple.  

“At TBA, we want to support people with a passion for horses to find a career within the thoroughbred industry,” she said, speaking to TDN AusNZ. “Stud Start allows the individuals to create a pathway and opportunity for themselves within the breeding sector, no matter their experience, age or demographic.”   

She said the inaugural Stud Start had been a positive trial for the program. “The students have all had an extreme eagerness to learn about the industry,” she said. “They are a group that, like sponges, have absorbed all the information they have been taught, be it in the classroom or the stables. They are no strangers to asking insightful questions.”  

TBA is a Gold Pledge Partner of Soldier On, in an effort to encourage Australian veterans into the thoroughbred industry. It’s also a valued Education Partner, with participants also having taken part in the Fast Track Program in the past.  

“We hope this is just the beginning of the Stud Start program. Hopefully, it will continue to grow and become a long-term, sustainable program because I think it’s really important that we try to cater for all demographics within our industry.”  

This is an edited version of an article by Jessica Owers for the Thoroughbred Daily News Australia & New Zealand. 

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