By PHILIPPA STEVENSON

THE COURSE

Students can bring their horses along for Wintec's certificate in equine studies, a 32-week course that trains the horse and rider.

But those with no mount can use one of the Wintec schoolmasters' horses at the Avalon Campus in Hamilton.

The facilities include a top-class indoor arena, paddocks and a stable block that includes full-size boxes, tack and feed rooms, washdown bays and stalls alongside classrooms.

Students work from 7.30am until 3.30pm, Monday to Thursday, over two semesters. They have class assignments, take field trips to equine businesses and do two blocks of work experience - one for two weeks, the other for six. Those taking riding options also practise their skills.

The programme aims to teach skills needed in the equine industry, such as health and safety requirements, first aid, basic calculations, computer and interview skills.

Students are taught grooming, lunging, catching and preparing a horse for exercise, travel and showing. They learn to care for horses in a paddock and stables and the signs and causes of ill health.

Feeding requirements and procedures for bringing horses into and out of work, horse body systems and how to deal with emergencies are also covered.

In the second semester, students specialise in community coaching, introduction to breeding, sport horse, or stable practice.

Sport horse students train dressage, show jumping and cross country, equine science and horse management.

The community coaching option teaches training in dressage, show jumping and cross-country as well as planning and implementing coaching sessions and building courses.

Students studying horse breeding learn about the industry as well as breeding cycles, care and education of young stock, pasture management, fencing, supplying water and farm vehicle use.

The stable practice course covers the thoroughbred racing industry, pasture management, fencing, farm vehicles, shoeing and fitting gear on a horse for riding.

Students are assessed on theory and practical exercises to NZQA standards. Graduates gain a Wintec certificate and can apply to NZQA for a national certificate in equine. With experience, further study is available at diploma and degree level.

Students must be 16 or older and have School Certificate English or the equivalent. Previous equine experience is an advantage. The course has 20 places each year. The sport horse option requires a Pony Club Association C+ certificate or equivalent.

The latest course, which cost $3700, began last week and applications are open now for next February's intake.

Graduates work nationally and internationally on stud farms, in racing and polo yards, dressage, eventing or showjumping.

WHAT PAST STUDENTS THINK

Cassandra Dunick, 18

Stud groom

The Oaks Stud

Cambridge

Graduated last year


"At Wintec I could keep riding my horse. Her show name's Dark Angel but her paddock name is Pony. We'd ridden at A&P shows and done show jumping.

"I went on the course straight from Te Puke High School and did sport horse. I've been riding since the word go but I learnt heaps.

"The tutors were excellent. They didn't push you past your capabilities.

"The course got me this job. I did work experience at The Oaks and just loved it and went straight on to working there.

"I would certainly recommend the course - I already have. I persuaded another girl at the stud to do it and recommended it to another girl from Te Puke."

WHAT EMPLOYERS THINK

Liz McIntyre

Senior stud groom

The Oaks Stud

Cambridge

"We have about 15 staff and three or four would be what we class as students. Not all have been to Wintec - some come straight from school - but we take students on work experience from there every year.

"One of our students is doing the course this year. Like other studs we find it hard to get young people into the industry and we find the polytech a good source of up-and-coming young people.

"The ones who have done the course have a good basic knowledge of things like OSH requirements and are more aware of the dangers, the procedures and how to look after themselves. They get a good background knowledge of the basics on which we can build.

"Because we are into breeding we'd probably like more emphasis on that, but it is not a specialised course. We have a good relationship with the polytech and get good feedback."

CERTIFICATE IN EQUINE STUDIES

Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec)

Hamilton

Website: www.wintec.ac.nz/equine

Ph: 0800 444 204