James Loder fast tracks his career in thoroughbred breeding


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From the age of 16, James Loder tried a variety of full time jobs in meatworks, general maintenance and even building centre pivot irrigators, but it wasn’t until he worked with thoroughbred horses at Cornerstone Stud in South Australia that he found his passion.

Originally from Murray Bridge in South Australia, James had little experience with horses despite his grandfather and uncle being trainers in the racing industry.

“I wasn’t lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with them, but I also never felt like horse racing was where I would really see myself going,” James said.

With some encouragement from Cornerstone Stud General Manager Sam Pritchard-Gordon and Stud Manager Ross Fuller, James applied for the Fast Track program – and was accepted into the 2022 intake. This national initiative ‘fast tracks’ the next generation of workers with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to pursue a rewarding career in Australia’s thoroughbred breeding industry.

Opening career pathways for the next generation

Australia may be home to the second-largest thoroughbred breeding industry in the world with a value of $1.16 billion, but the industry is facing severe staffing shortages. 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 and recently released its RD&E Plan to guide investment for the next five years. The Plan identifies workforce as one of four priorities for investment, with a strong focus on investing in training and opportunities to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

In line with this, the Fast Track program helps to address 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.

Fast Track was initially developed as a NSW-based program by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and with the support of AgriFutures Australia has been able to extend its reach and take in participants from other states and territories.

James was one of seven students who completed a placement with the Fast Track program in 2022. This involved a balance of formal study for a TAFE Certificate III in Horse Breeding and hands-on learning at Cornerstone Stud through a full time traineeship.

“I’ve learnt so much over the last year,” James said. “We started with a 4-week block where you got a good base set of knowledge, from putting on a halter to walking horses. Then we had a few months on-farm and that really helped to put what we learnt into action. Towards the end of the program we went deeper into areas like farriers and nutrition.

“You can only learn so much hands-on. To be able to go into the classroom and learn the different aspects of the industry gives you much better in-depth knowledge, especially about the horse and its muscular and skeletal system, what makes it run and how it puts on and loses condition.

“The amazing support I’ve received from the Fast Track program educators has helped me to develop as a person. There are plenty of people who want you to come into the industry and are willing to help you to be the best you can.”

Gearing up for a solid career in thoroughbreds

As a stud hand at Cornerstone Stud, no day is the same for James. He starts with a feed run and checks over the mares and foals, looking for any injuries and their general condition. Tasks vary depending on the time of year but can include veterinary work, holding horses for the farrier and general maintenance around the farm.

“I love being out there working with horses. There is always something new to learn and they keep you on your toes,” he laughs.

James is now set on pursuing a career in thoroughbred breeding. Before the Fast Track program he was interested in working with stallions but has since realised there are many career pathways in the industry – both short- and long-term.

“Now that I’ve seen all aspects of the industry that Fast Track has shown me, I have so many options on where I can go,” he said. “After getting a bit more in-depth, I’m really starting to like the bloodstock side of things, particularly as a longer-term career.”

His advice to anyone considering applying for the Fast Track program is simple: “Go for it and don’t think twice.”

“If you’re looking to get into the industry, whether you have tonnes of experience or you’ve never touched a horse before, there’s no better option to start your career in thoroughbreds. It’s hard work, there’s no denying that, but it gives you good basic knowledge, a good work ethic, and you get to meet some amazing people and mentors to help you build your career,” James added.

“I also want to thank AgriFutures for giving us an opportunity to do a program like Fast Track; it wouldn’t be possible without them and the help they have given young people to come into the industry is phenomenal.”

Applications for the 2023 intake are now open. For more information or to apply for the 2023 Fast Track program visit https://www.tbaus.com/fast-track-program/about-the-fast-track-program/

For more information about AgriFutures capacity building opportunities visit AgriFutures Australia.

Visit AgriFutures Thoroughbred Horses Program more information.

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