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THOROUGHBRED HORSES / Thursday, 18 May 2023
Tiarnna Clarke: Learning from the best in thoroughbred breeding
From Tasmania to Western Australia and many places in between, Tiarnna Clarke has seen how a range of successful stud farms and racing stables operate.
Born in Launceston and then growing up in Roxby Downs, South Australia, Tiarnna’s passion for horses blossomed as she looked after her off-the-track thoroughbreds and she spent much of her spare time after school and on weekends helping on small stud farms and agistment centres.
She then moved west to Karnup, south of Perth, to work with Pearce Racing before returning to South Australia to join Mill Park Stud in Meningie, where she has worked since 2020.
Armed with plenty of on-the-job knowledge, Tiarnna came across Thoroughbred Breeders Australia’s Fast Track program on Facebook and decided to apply as it would provide the theory behind thoroughbred breeding to complement her practical experience.
“There is so much to learn about the breeding industry and a highlight has been learning the theory rather than just doing it,” she said. “I love working with the mares and foals, and watching them grow up to become successful racehorses.”
The Fast Track program is supported by AgriFutures Australia which has prioritised the need to attract and retain a workforce to support Australia’s rural industries in its 16:5:5 Roadmap to 2027. Likewise, AgriFutures’ Thoroughbred Horses Program also has a strategic focus investing in initiatives to attract and retain a skilled workforce in the Australian thoroughbred breeding industry as outlined in the AgriFutures Thoroughbred Horses Program RD&E Plan (2022-2027) – a crucial void that the Fast Track program helps to fill.
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. Over a 12-month period, Fast Track participants attend two intensive learning blocks (6 weeks in total) as part of a TAFE Certificate III in Horse Breeding and complete a full-time traineeship at a reputable stud farm. For Tiarnna, she continued working at Mill Park Stud during the program.
“They have given me the opportunity to have a go and learn new things,” she said.
“A typical day for me is busy! I spend the morning feeding and checking all the mares and foals to make sure there are no injuries and everyone is happy. I also help with the movement of racehorses and mares around the property, arrival horses and departures, treatments, injections and making sure everything is ready for the evening.”
Sharing knowledge with the next generation of breeders
The Fast Track program organised field trips for participants to visit some of the most prestigious stud farms in Australia. This included farms in the Hunter region of New South Wales such as Kitchwin Hills and Vinery Stud in Scone and Coolmore Australia in Jerrys Plains.
“We got to see how different studs run and take a few things from every stud to use for our own knowledge,” Tiarnna said.
“One of the highlights for me was going to Yulong Stud in north-east Victoria and getting to watch the foaling down process there and that side of the breeding course. I really enjoyed that part – once the foal is born, it’s exciting that you helped to create a new life.”
While Tiarnna previously worked with adult horses, the Fast Track program has given her confidence in handling younger horses.“After the course ends I would like to further my experience within the breeding industry and continue working with the mares and foals,” she said.
With the 2023 Fast Track program kicking off shortly, Tiarnna strongly encourages anyone to apply.
“Definitely give it a shot. The Fast Track program lets you see inside the different parts of the industry, not just the breeding,” she said.
“You might think you know the breeding industry but there is always something new to learn.”
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