Race track training prepares students for success in the equestrian industry

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Winnipeg-

Eleven students spend their days caring for horses as part of a new paid work program at Assiniboia Downs.

A new training program teaches students aged 16 to 29 how to groom horses in on-the-job training.

Office manager Shannon Dawley said there is value in working with horses on the track, but doing so without proper training comes with risks.

“Without any experience, putting them in an area with horses and especially racehorses would be a bit dangerous, so safety is an obvious concern,” Dawley said.

Seeing the need for trained workers, Assiniboia Downs contacted the province and found that training funds were available from the government’s First Jobs Fund. The fund allows eligible employers to provide paid training to people between the ages of 15 and 29. Dawley says the minimum age to work on the track is 16, but otherwise the fund was well suited to the track’s training needs.

Students selected to participate receive four weeks of paid training, provided they match the age bracket. The first week takes place entirely in class.

“Students get a job description, what to expect, parts of a horse, parts of tack, parts of the job and lots about safety. How to keep yourself safe in barns, around horses and just your personal safety,” Dawley said.

After the classroom, the training moves to the stables for hands-on learning and mentorship from the trainers. They volunteer to teach students the three-week practical component. To date, eleven students have completed or are in the process of completing the program. Dawley said the goal is to provide training in early spring, the pre-season for horse racing, for each of the next five years. She points out that graduates of the program will not lack job opportunities.

“There are more than enough jobs on the race track. And there will continue to be as more horses return to Manitoba after COVID and in light of all restrictions. And other possibilities include boarding houses, livestock facilities, and other agricultural environments.

Dawley is excited about the future of the program, especially given the quality of work provided by the students so far.

“The feedback I’ve received from the trainers in the barns and what I’ve witnessed when I’ve been in the barns and supervised is phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals.”

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