Every year thousands of thoroughbred ex-racehorses, often referred to as off-the-track thoroughbreds retire from the racing industry, with their futures uncertain.
NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust manager Scott Brodie is one horse enthusiast retraining these horses for sport and recreational purposes, and this week he brought his skills to the Aboriginal Land Council at Bomaderry in order to tackle the region’s high unemployment rates.
Over the course of three days, Mr Brodie taught a group of seven Aboriginal men and women the basic skills behind retraining a racehorse.
“There’s a lot of work in the thoroughbred industry whether its breeding or in the equestrian industry, they are crying out for people with good skills,” he said.
“So if we can train people up and get them to a point where we can train other people up in the community, then we are going to help the horses and help people in Nowra find employment.”
Mr Brodie works with ex-servicemen who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as inmates in jails across NSW.
“The horse does a lot for the person,” he said.
“Horses are fantastic in teaching people communication, empathy, body language and anger management.
“You can’t lie to a horse and we’ve seen over the last couple of days people come in here and pretend they’re relaxed but you cant pretend to a horse.
“The horse knows whether you’re relaxed or not so you really need to get control of your emotions to get a good result.”
Mr Brodie said the three-day course would give the Shoalhaven participants the ability to find employment in an industry where they could make a difference.
“We are killing two birds with one stone because there is the opportunity for employment while also helping these horse,” he said.
The ultimate goal following the course is to develop a permanent program in the Shoalhaven, where the group could teach other people how to retrain and re-home racehorses.
“Hopefully in the not too distant future we are looking at a property here in the Shoalhaven that might be suitable to run an ongoing program led by the group,” he said.
“They all have the potential to go far with this if they choose to do so.”
Nowra Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Greg Peterson said the aim of the program was to create full-time and ongoing work for indigenous people in Nowra.
“It is a really big issue here in Nowra,” he said.
“When the group is fully trained we are hoping to introduce our program with the horses into the juvenile justice system,” he said.
“We will have a master group which ill be employed full time so we can contract to rehabilitation programs and self esteem programs.”
Mr Peterson said the Land Council was also partnering with a civil constructions company to offer more employment opportunities for indigenous people aged 19 to 45.
“They wanted to improve their indigenous employment levels so they are working with us so when people graduate from the [horse rehabilitation] program they can get full time work, which is one of our big issues,” he said.