From Little Things- An update blog from Fiona September 17 2018
Nearly two years ago now I received a call from a lady in Hobart who had somehow heard around the traps that I was working with and enjoyed coaching people with standarbreds. This lady won brownie points from me on two counts, one – she appeared to be on of those fantastic people who just found a way to get things done, and two – she was based in Tasmania! As a born and bred Tasmanian I’m always keen to visit my home state.
Sue Streit explained the state based standardbredassociation had faced challenges all too familiar to small committees and many of the core group were struggling to find the time and/or enthusiasm to continue running shows and events. However, Sue was involved in the local racing scene and had heard a whisper the good folk at TasRacing were looking to support some life after racing activities. Not one to leave an opportunity hanging Sue set about bringing me to Tasmania once every two months to coach. We ran Saturday clinics for those with standardbreds in the North with the assistance of MareePayne and Sunday clinics in the South.
Participants with standardbreds were invited to attend completely free of charge. We had a wonderful variety of participants turn up right from the start. We had horses competing very successfully on the local show scene through to people with horses who hadn’t been backed yet coming for an outing. We had riders who’d been gung ho riders in their younger years (including some I’d hunted with as a teenager!) who’d decided to try a more sedate horse. We had riders who were returning to riding or even starting riding as an adult. The over-riding (pun intended) feel Sue, Maree and myself wanted to have was one of total inclusion and support, regardless of the skill level of the participant.
Let’s fast-forward to now. TasRacing appointed the fabulous Dr Annie Knox as their welfare officer at the beginning of 2018. I now travel to coach one weekend a month and demand is so great we’ve involved local coaches as well. The Off The Track program now includes both thoroughbreds and standardbreds. Most weekends there is an Off The Track event covering things like trail riding, backing standardbreds, lectures in transitioning both breeds from racehorses to pleasure horses as well as dressage and jumping lessons. All of these events are fully sponsored by TasRacing, giving riders the confidence to take on an ex-racehorse with the knowledge they’ll have ongoing assistance.
The culture of inclusion and support continues and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this program. I’ve had the pleasure of watching people go from starting their riding journey with their horse to enjoying them in competition, trail riding and even hunting. Watching these combinations grow in skill and confidence has been an absolute joy. Even better has been watching people create new friendships and see the happy updates of a fun ride out or a catch up at a competition.
This program, fully funded and supported by TasRacinghas made a huge difference to both riders and horses. Each Australian state racing body now has active Off The Track programs running, largely supporting re-trainers and offering sponsorships for competitions. The way TasRacing has approached their life after racing program is different to other states in some ways but it 100% works. The program is almost unrecognisable from our humble beginnings now but the important things haven’t changed!
If you’re in Tasmania and have an off the track horse from either harness or galloping background come and join us – you can find information at offthetracktas.com.au, or the Facebook page. I’d love to see you there!