Young track work riders sought

Noelle Supple.
Noelle Supple.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing is taking action to tackle the national shortage of trackwork riders.

A pilot scheme has been developed by NZTR to link hundreds of young people across the country who are passionate about their horses with the racing industry.

''Essentially, what we are doing is we are trying to build a relationship with New Zealand pony clubs for their young [riders] to find out a little bit more about the racing industry and to teach them how to ride their horses on the racecourse in a safe way,'' NZTR industry training and education consultant Chris Watson said.

Where track riding and pony club events especially crossed over was that both required riders to ride to specific time, he said.

The Otago Racing Club is at the centre of the development of the scheme and is hold training days at Wingatui racecourse as part of the pilot scheme, named Ride To Time.

The club's involvement is being spearheaded by operations manager Noelle Supple, who juggles trackwork riding with her day job at the organisation.

She met NZTR officials recently to discuss the idea and implement a plan for the training days.

''Each day will consist of balance and fitness training, tuition on the mechanical horse, talk on track-work riding and the industry rules and regulations,'' Supple said.

''Later in the day the attendees will get to go around Wingatui's sand track.''

The same riders will come back a second day and further polish their skills, she said.

Joining the riding instructors and jockey coaches in leading the course will be former champion New Zealand jockey David Walsh and local riders Jacob Lowry and Courtney Barnes.

Although the course is only in its very early stages of development, the 12 available positions had already been filled by keen Taieri-based pony club riders.

Supple, originally from the United Kingdom, hoped the course could be extended to cater for more interested local young people.

In May, racing officials told the Otago Daily Times the industry was nearing crisis, with trainers simply not able to find trackwork riders for their stables.

Included in that conversation was the industry's failureto link young riders and track-riding careers.

Supple's role in heading the Otago Racing Club's involvement is aided by her experience with a similar project that was set up in her homeland.

There, the British Horseracing Authority runs an extensive training programme through its Pony Racing Authority.

The organisation runs a programme which takes 9 to 15-year-old horse enthusiasts and develops them into pony racing riders.

The scheme gives the candidates a direct link to potential careers as trackwork riders or jockeys.

The Ride To Time events at Wingatui will be staged on August 27 and September 10.

Another training course will also be held at Riccarton in Christchurch to engage with Canterbury-based pony club riders on August 13 and 20.

If the pilot programme is successful it will be rolled out nationally, Watson said.

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