Three young women working in the thoroughbred industry are heading overseas early next year to enhance their careers thanks scholarships promoted by the NZTBA..
The Sunline International Management Scholarship has been awarded to Kyla Robb, and due to the high calibre of applicants and the generosity of the Keith and Faith Taylor Family, both Hannah Airey and Laura Macnab will study at the Irish National Stud.
According to previous International Management Scholarship winner and now NZTBA Councillor and Sunline Education Trust trustee Shannon Taylor, the applicants this year were the best she has seen in her tenure.
“They were an amazing, talented group of young people and it is very heartening to see so many young people working in the thoroughbred industry and applying,” she enthused.
“So much so that we asked the Irish National Stud if we could send a second student and thanks to Faith and the Taylor family, we were able fund two students.
“The fact that we chose three women this year is testament to the fact that they have loads of passion and believe they can have a successful future in the industry and are keen to progress their careers.”
For Kyla Robb, who is currently the Broodmare Manager at The Oaks, winning the scholarship was a nice surprise.
“Honestly it means so much to me,” she said.
“I guess that it reconfirms all my hard-work in the industry has been worth it, and now the industry is helping me and giving something back. I want to keep striving and learning in this industry and the scholarship gives me a wonderful opportunity to do that.
“I am really looking forward to going to Kentucky as what I have heard about Kentucky is incredible, they seem to do things so differently there and with no expense is spared. The farms look amazing. I have a fair idea of how things operate in Ireland and England, but it will be really cool to go America to learn.”
Robb will spend 30 weeks experiencing the operational infrastructure and systems at three of the world’s premier farms; Shadwell Stud in England, Coolmore Stud in Ireland and Winstar Farm in Kentucky.
She describes herself as a city kid through and through who used to ride when she could. Each year for her birthday and at Christmas time she would ask to go pony riding and didn’t get her own horse until she was in her early twenties.
On leaving school Robb was heading to Massey University to do a Bachelor of Economics and asked on enrolling if there was any way to study horses without becoming a vet, and they suggested the Bachelor of Agri-Science majoring in Equine Studies.
While she was studying, during the holidays, she got her first taste of working with horses and did a yearling prep at Waikato Stud and the following year went to Curraghmore Stud.
“I didn’t really get involved in horses until my early twenties after I had finished my degree,” Robb said.
“I moved to the South Island and worked on a dairy farm and I had a couple of ponies. After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to be in the thoroughbred industry and took a job with Gordon Cunningham at Curraghmore.”
Robb had a break to go travelling and, on her return, went to The Oaks where she worked in the foaling unit for a season, before travelling to Ireland and working the foaling season at Corduf Stud. On returning to New Zealand she was appointed to her current position at The Oaks.
Cunningham was also involved in mentoring Hannah Airey who along with Laura MacNab will travel to Kildare next January to undertake the five-month Breeding course at the Irish National Stud. The course covers both practical and academic units covering everything from business studies, to animal welfare and pasture management. The NZTBA has been sponsoring students to the Irish National Stud for nearly 30 years.
Growing up in Te Awamutu Airey used to ride a friend’s pony occasionally and this prompted her to take riding lessons.
“While I was at college, I saw a advert in the local paper for a job at Curraghmore,” she explained, “Gordon didn’t give me a job but he let me hang out at the stud in the school holidays and weekends, and that helped me to decide to head to Telford to get some qualifications.”
At Telford Polytech she achieved a Telford Certificate in Equine Level 3 with distinction and the same with the Level 4 Certificate, and she also received the Telford Award in Equine Theory.
From there she did a yearling prep at Curraghmore before moving into full time work there where she cares for the mares and foals. Airey applied for scholarship last year, and such was her desire to attend the course that she took on the advice of the selection panel when she missed out, upskilled and filled the gaps in her CV and applied again.
“I am really excited, it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” a very delighted Airey said.
“I want to experience all sides of the industry and I am sure I will get a good foundation behind me. I have no family background in horses, but my Dad encouraged me to apply for the scholarship last year, but I missed out. I feel much better equipped to take on the course now.
“I quite enjoy working with the vets when they are working with mares and foals, and finding out how they treat issues etc, I am hoping the course will give me some more direction in my career and help me become more decisive in what I want to specialise in. I am very keen to learn, and it will be good to get skills over a wide spectrum of roles.”
The reality of winning the scholarship has not hit Laura Macnab either.
“I’m still buzzing,” Macnab enthused, “it was a bit of a shock to be accepted but I am so so excited I can’t wait to get over there and get all that knowledge and bring it back here.
“It’s so exciting as the one of the next generation to be given this opportunity to do this course and come back and work in the industry it’s a great opportunity.
“We are lucky to have an industry to work in with such a great global reputation. It’s an incredible industry to work in.”
MacNab grew up on a sheep and cattle farm on the outskirts of Ngaruwahia where her mother also bred Welsh ponies, and she admits to riding a horse before she could walk. She is currently in her final year at Massey University. Horses and farming have always been part of her life so an Agri-Science degree majoring in Equine Studies was a logical study path for her.
“It was the perfect degree for me coming off a farm and integrating the equine science. Such a cool way to learn,” she said.
“I bought my first horse at 17 and he was an off the track thoroughbred and that is when I fell in love with thoroughbreds. Now I ride trackwork at Awapuni when I am at Massey, and work down the road at Te Akau Stud in the holidays.”
The NZTBA has been sponsoring students to the Irish National Stud for nearly 30 years, and most are still working in the industry today. Students who successfully complete the course are awarded a certificate which is recognised throughout the world, and the list of graduates reads like a who’s who of the international thoroughbred industry.
It is a similar situation with graduates from the Sunline Management Scholarship which provided the grounding for the likes of Bruce Slade, Michael Wallace, Jamie Richards, Shannon Taylor and Libby Bleakley. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA