Sally Waters has always had a passion for horses and for empowering young people through education.
This month she is stepping down from her post as education officer after over 20 years of service.
In 2001, Waters took on the role of ‘Education Officer’ for the Waikato Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. This was an ideal opportunity to combine her Bachelor of Education and Diploma in Teaching qualifications with her active interest in the thoroughbred industry.
After testing the paramaters of mainstream education in the equine industry, Waters pioneered a new way of delivering a Breeding Education Programme to students. This breeding programme is now offered by the Primary ITO in conjunction with the NZTBA.
Rewind 20 years, when the original Equine Breeding Course consisted of one Level Four qualification taught over two annual block courses, taking three years for students to complete. The course faced low numbers of students enrolling, ultimately resulting in low numbers of graduates.
“When I was first involved with equine industry training there were no resources or systems in place,” Waters recalls.
She therefore made it a major focus, as she describes it, “to develop assessments, resources and systems” with the aim of enhancing student success.
Positive change for the breeding programme was just over the horizon. In 2019, Sally recruited Waikato industry participants Rodney Schick and Russell Rogers to assist in her mission to redevelop the Breeding Course. The goal was to enable greater student progression. Combining Level Three and Level Four qualifications and the introduction of fortnightly classes allowed students to network and gather support around their studies on a more regular basis.
However it was the establishment of the Learner Guides within the programme that Waters speaks of as her greatest achievement. She managed to gain funding from the then Equine ITO and the TEC Literacy and Numeracy project to fund her own research, which in turn informed her of the direction of course content needed for the Breeding course.
“The learner guides we are using today in the Breeding programme are the outcome from that project,” she says.
The Learner Guides are acknowledged by current students as an invaluable resource. After the success of the breeding course, Waters’ roles and responsibilities around equine training grew exponentially.
She was appointed Executive Officer of the industry’s PTE NZ Equine Education Trust and NZTR Apprentice Academy Director. These roles saw Walters facilitate a number of projects for the Equine ITO, such as the qualification and unit standard reviews.
Waters said the most rewarding aspect of her role in education was the sense of making a difference in the careers and lives of the students.
“It is so rewarding to know that I am making a difference, by facilitating the education of young people by observing their progress in the industry,” Waters said.
“Seeing those students who hadn’t achieved success at school and didn’t believe in their learning capabilities find a passion in the Equine industry, and actively engage with learning to achieve a qualification, that has been extremely rewarding.”
Even so, change was in the air. When the Equine ITO merged into Ag ITO (or commonly referred to as Primary ITO), Waters also moved away from the hands-on involvement with the breeder’s course to focus on other areas within Equine industry training.
NZTBA councilor Vicki Pascoe, represented the NZTBA alongside Sally on the education team.
“For over 20 years Sally has been the backbone of the thoroughbred education team,” Pascoe said. “Not only tutoring the breeding students, apprentice jockeys and stablehands, marking their assessments and very much assisting our industry to stay compliant and work thorough the maze of the education jargon.
“On a personal note both Sally and I have spent quite a few enjoyable hours at career days and different trade stands promoting our great industry opportunities. We've enjoyed quite a few challenges but always had time for a few laughs even during the frustrating times. On behalf of the industry a big thank you!”
Waters has certainly made a difference in many students’ lives throughout the breeding programme and while her knowledge, skill set, and enthusiastic attitude will be missed, her legacy in education will continue.
- Madison Tims, NZTBA