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Westmeath pupil takes top honour in From Foal to Race TY programme with horse racing poem

May 25, 2023

Michael Geary

Seventeen-year-old Ruth Shanley, a transition year student from Columba College in Killucan, Co. Westmeath was announced as the winner of the 2023 From Foal to Race TY programme with her poem titled ‘From Foal to Race’.  

With some help from her classmates, Ruth’s poem was inspired by the process of raising a foal to a winning racehorse.  

Ruth won €1,000 for her school and a family pass to the Irish National Stud in Co. Kildare. Ruth and her class also win a VIP behind-the-scenes trip to a racecourse next autumn.  

The From Foal to Race TY programme was established in 2022 by Agri Aware and equuip, Horse Racing Ireland’s education and training division.   

The programme is structured to create a learning experience for both student and teacher to enhance understanding and interest in all things horse racing. The three primary objectives of the programme are to raise awareness of Ireland’s racing and breeding industry, to increase understanding of the foal to race story, and to highlight the many careers within this vibrant industry. 

This year for the end-of-programme project, pupils were tasked with submitting a reflection that demonstrated their learnings. Submissions received included poems, essays, artwork, presentations on racing and breeding related topics including thoughtful reflections. 

This academic year, 5,334 students from 134 schools around the country participated in the From Foal to Race TY programme – a 31% increase in participation since the programme was launched in 2022. The programme includes six chapters such as horse basics, breeding, and stud farms. Students also participated in a series of interactive webinars and had to submit a group project to complete the programme. In addition, the programme also covered transferable skills of group work, debate, public speaking, and research.  

On acceptance of her award, Ruth said: “My family, especially my sisters and I love horses. I took part in equine therapy when I was younger which really helped me. I learned directions and colours by painting my therapy horses with water colours. The From Foal to Race programme was lots of fun and I enjoy investigating what it takes to get the horses from being a foal to the racecourse. It was my favourite project that we did as part of my TY year. I love videos and digital learning too, so it was a perfect fit for me.” 

Ruth’s teacher, Enya Scally, explained: “We are so proud, thrilled and delighted for Ruth winning the competition. It has brought huge excitement and buzz to the school at the end of the year. It was our first year to enter the From Foal to Race TY programme and found the programme excellent, not only for students with interest in horses but also those with no equine background or experience. We are really excited about the class trip and look forward to taking part again next year.”  

Agri Aware Executive Director, Marcus O’Halloran said: “The From Foal to Race programmes gives great opportunities for students to learn all about the horse racing industry here in Ireland and the journey of the thoroughbred horse from a foal to competing on the racecourse. It’s a great way of linking students with one of our great indigenous industries and one that Ireland is regarded as world-leaders. 

“Agri Aware is delighted to be part of such initiatives like the From Foal to Race programme that educate TY students on this world-renowned industry. Congratulations to Ruth Shanley and well done to all that took part in the programme.”  

The runner-up prize went to Sarah Archdeacon, Danielle O’Connor and Rachel Morton from Scoil Mhuire in Kanturk in Co. Cork who won a day out at the Fethard Horse Country Experience in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, to enjoy with their families.   

Their video presentation included an interview with racehorse trainer Michael Winters while also fundraising for Irish Injured Jockeys.  

Manager of equuip, Elaine Burke said: “The From Foal to Race TY programme has been a great success in the last two years. It has enabled us to reach second level students across Ireland and to enhance their understanding of the Irish horse racing and breeding industry of which there are so many career options available.   

“We are delighted for Ruth Shanley, our 2023 winner. Her poem was truly outstanding and a wonderful reflection of the From Foal to Race story.  

“We would also like to thank all TY classes who submitted projects. The calibre of entries was extremely strong and creative and we thank them all for their participation and hope they enjoyed their time learning about the thoroughbred industry.”