Report calls for a crucial new perspective on career opportunities in agriculture
THOROUGHBRED HORSES / Tuesday, 2 May 2023
From foal to champion racehorse: Michael seizes a career in thoroughbred breeding
Bringing a new life into the world is always a special moment, and for Michael Dickson the opportunity to foal down a mare for the first time is a favourite memory.
“It all went so well. That life came into the world and I was the only one assisting – I really enjoyed that,” Michael said.
It’s a unique opportunity that Michael was able to experience as a participant in Thoroughbred Breeders Australia’s Fast Track program. This 12-month accelerated program blends practical experience with theoretical knowledge to allow people with a passion for horses to discover the many fulfilling career options available in Australia’s thoroughbred breeding industry.
The son of a racehorse trainer based in Mornington, Victoria, Michael had a lifelong passion for horses and wanted to continue working with them. He was researching potential career pathways online when he came across the Fast Track program and decided to apply for the 2022 cohort.
“It looked like a good way to get my foot in the door of the industry,” Michael said.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia introduced the Fast Track program to help address industry-wide staffing shortages. Fast Track was initially developed as a NSW-based program and with the support of AgriFutures Australia has been able to broaden its intake to include participants from other states and territories.
The AgriFutures Thoroughbred Horses Program invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) that aims to improve the sustainability, productivity and competitiveness of the Australian thoroughbred industry. The Program recently released its plan for investment in RD&E for the next five years. The Plan identifies workforce as one of four priorities, with a strong focus on investing in initiatives to attract and retain a skilled workforce.
The Fast Track program is a great example of addressing workforce needs by providing an accelerated introduction to thoroughbred breeding and hands-on learning experiences to help its graduates progress into a career in the industry.
Strong foundations for a future career
The 2022 Fast Track program began in Scone, New South Wales – the heart of thoroughbred breeding in Australia – where participants completed a four week intensive block of TAFE study which provided basic theoretical knowledge for thoroughbred breeding including preventing equine disease and injury, caring for pregnant mares and foals and raising young horses.
Participants were then paired with reputable stud farms for on-the-job experience as a full-time trainee, working through the breeding season before regrouping for an additional two-week block of study. The participants have since continued working on their respective farms and at the end of the program will receive a TAFE Certificate III in Horse Breeding which is recognised across Australia.
Michael was placed as a stud hand on Blue Gum Farm in north-east Victoria.
“Being on the stud farm, every morning we all meet and plan out what everyone is going to do for the day. Everyone does a bit of everything and we all work in together to keep the ship going. It’s been really good working in a team environment,” he said.
In addition to foaling, Michael has enjoyed learning more about the breeding process for thoroughbred horses to produce healthy foals including vetting mares during the breeding season and being part of the weaning process.
It has also sparked an interest in bloodstock work as a future career option.
“There’s a lot I can do – I’d like to work with stallions a little bit more and foaling down, but eventually the end goal is to go into bloodstock as an agent or consultant. I’ve always found the buying and selling of horses fascinating and thought how cool it would be if I could breed a horse that was a champion racehorse,” Michael said.
Despite having some experience with horses before taking part in Fast Track, Michael found the program extremely beneficial and is keen to continue working in the thoroughbred breeding industry.
“I came from a racing background and had worked in a few racing stables, but breeding is a whole different story. It’s not what you expect coming into it and you’ve got to be ready to work because in the breeding season it’s a lot of hours, but it’s very rewarding if you put in the effort,” he said.
“If you have a goal, it’s the type of industry where the more you put in, the more you can get out of it.”
WORKFORCE AND LEADERSHIP / 02.05.23Report calls for a crucial new perspective on career opportunities in agriculture
EMERGING INDUSTRIES / 02.05.23Brewing new opportunities for Australia’s emerging coffee industry
GOAT FIBRE / 02.05.23Future Fibre Farming: Transforming Australia’s goat fibre industry
NATIONAL CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES / 02.05.23How to break down the barriers to carbon farming