Rachael Blackmore was on hand at Punchestown to meet the winning Castleisland students from the Agri Aware and Equuip ‘From Foal to Race’ Horseracing Schools Programme.
The end-of-programme project tasked the participating students with designing a poster or flyer for an event inspired by the horse racing industry. Shauna O’Keefe, Miriam and Abbie O’Connell, and Katelyn O’Keefe from Castleisland Community College created a flyer for a Family Fun Fest which included clever ideas such as a kiddies’ corner, a jockey meet and greet and even pledged to raise money for the ISPCA Equine Rescue Centre.
Castleisland Community College were rewarded with a trip to Punchestown Racecourse which included a meet and greet with Rachael Blackmore, a track walk with jockey Sean Flanagan and they also shadowed Wexford trainer Paul Nolan as he saddled a horse for a race.
Schools across the country, not just in traditional horseracing heartlands, took part over 12 weeks to complete the pilot programme, which will run again next year. Schools can sign up here.
Over 4000 students from 120 schools got involved in ‘From Foal to Race’. Those who submitted a project received a ticket to the Irish National Stud.
The Agri Aware and equuip joint initiative is a free programme to introduce transition year students to all aspects of horseracing.
From Foal to Race
The ‘From Foal to Race’ programme shines a light on the equine sector with six modules in all, to be covered at the teachers’ and students’ leisure. Topics include ‘Breeding and Stud Farms,’ ‘Making a Racehorse,’ and ‘Horse Basics’.
No prior knowledge of horseracing or the equine industry is necessary to participate in ‘From Foal to Race.’
While jockeys, horses, and trainers grab the headlines, there is a huge range of careers available across the entire equine, bloodstock, and horseracing sector. The industry is worth nearly €2 billion to the Irish economy, with many of the roles maintaining employment in rural areas.
Kellie Sheehy, Teacher at Castleisland Community College, noted: “The Agri Aware ‘From Foal to Race’ transition year programme was fantastic. The students were thrilled to win the group project element as it gave them such an insight into the horse racing and breeding industry. It was very interesting for them to explore all sides of horse racing and it allowed the students to drive their own learning and take charge of the project.
“It was also great to see the wealth of talent we have in Irish racing. The students got to see that it’s not just about the jockeys and horses – there are so many more different aspects and careers in horse racing.
“The icing on the cake was our trip to Punchestown, the students really enjoyed having such a hands-on learning experience.”
Carol Nolan, Horse Racing Ireland’s Director of People, and Industry Education, commented: “We are delighted to have partnered with Agri Aware to produce this Transition Year Programme, a programme we have been very keen to develop over the last number of years. It was brilliant to see such a fantastic take up in its first year.
“Through the programme students are getting the opportunity to get a comprehensive overview of the horse racing and breeding industry in Ireland and the life of a thoroughbred. With no prior industry or equine knowledge needed, this programme is a great opportunity for us to tell the story of the thoroughbred industry to this next generation and spark interests and affinities with the sport.”
Registration is open for next year to all secondary schools. The programme will run in the spring of 2023 and transition year co-ordinators can sign up here or at Agriaware.ie.
Agri Aware Executive Director Marcus O’Halloran said: “It is brilliant to have Rachael Blackmore’s support for the ‘From Foal to Race’ programme with equuip, you can see how much it meant to the students to meet her.
“To see someone who is not from a traditional horseracing background rise to the top of the sport through such hard work is great for the future growth of the sector.
“Rachael is an inspiration to all young people and maybe through this collaboration with equuip we can find the next generation of Rachael Blackmores.”