The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) has established strong relationships with the equine industry.
Recently, during a Careers Panel discussion hosted by the college at Enniskillen Campus, students received valuable insights from industry experts. The discussion was led by Leo Powell, Contributing Editor of The Irish Field, who with the panellists provided guidance and advice to aspiring equine students.
The panel comprised of renowned industry representatives, two of whom were CAFRE graduates. The panel members were Alison Bell, James Harrison, Casey Webb, Cheryl Broderick, Paul Keane, and Ciara Devitt. Leo conducted individual interviews with each of the panellists.
‘Super Groom’ Alison Bell, joined remotely from Chesire where she works as a Groom for International Event Rider, Yasmin Ingham. Alison spoke of how her passion for horses began when she was young when she was encouraged to join a local riding school. Following recommendations from friends Alison applied for and studied on the BSc Hons Degree at Enniskillen Campus. Commenting on her time at CAFRE, Alison said: “Studying at Enniskillen Campus taught me what it took to work on a yard. Our days revolved around horses. I enjoyed the practical aspects of the course from exercising the horses to getting involved in the management of the breeding unit. I learnt so much and made great friends. I now work as a Groom, a pivotal role in any yard. I keep the wheels oiled and realise how the smallest things can make the biggest of impacts in your career”. Alison’s advice to the students present was: “always be willing to learn and never assume you know everything.”
James Harrison, Stallion Manager at Newgate Stud, New South Wales, Australia joined the panel by video link. James developed an early interest in horses, pestering his parents for a pony. As James grew taller, he knew his aspirations to be a jockey wouldn’t materialise. James, a degree graduate of Enniskillen Campus, stated his reasons for choosing CAFRE were: “the outstanding equine facilities the college offers, with the opportunity to ride out each morning and to be hands on with the horses.” Reflecting on how his career has progressed James said: “I had a hunger to learn, listen and watch and knew working with experts would benefit me. I got a job with Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle whilst studying at CAFRE, and with a will to succeed travelled three hours every weekend to work in the stables.” James’ advice to the students was to work towards a long-term goal, take criticism and feedback from others and use it to your advantage to progress your equine career.
Joining Leo on the stage was event rider Casey Webb. Casey works at Ballymac Stables with Trevor and Steven Smith of Smith Brothers Eventing, a business with a passion for developing their staff and which partners with CAFRE to deliver Apprenticeship NI training. Casey shared with everyone how she had previously worked outside the industry but kept being pulled back to her passion of horses. Given her wealth of experience within the industry, she gave invaluable insights and words of wisdom to the audience. Casey’s advice to all students was to: “Be happy to do any job, persevere and keep working. Accept the not so glamourous jobs when they come around as you will be rewarded for your enthusiasm.”
Ballypatrick and the Broderick family names are synonymous with top level Irish Show Jumping. We were fortunate to be joined by Cheryl Broderick who heads up the breeding section of the family business in County Tipperary. Leo drew from Cheryl a sense of hope and ambition that Irish Show Jumping is on an upward trajectory, giving huge potential opportunities to the students in the room. Cheryl offered encouragement to the female students stating that there are possibilities and an equal playing field to be found in the equine industry. Guidance offered to the students by Cheryl was to: “Keep striving for higher standards and to put yourself in a position to learn from the best.”
Paul Keane, Sales Manager at The Curragh spoke of his youthful desire to be a jockey with the realisation that it wasn’t a realistic long-term career for him. Developing an interest in commerce and hospitality Paul told how he developed customer relationship management techniques and uses the experiences now in his current position. He was clear that transferable skills come from all roles and qualifications and encouraged students to take on opportunities to develop themselves. Paul advised Leo that the most important advice for newcomers in the industry is to "pursue your passion, find something you love, and work with a competent team to achieve your goals."
Ciara Devitt, the Education Initiatives Manager for Godolphin Ireland, was the final panellist to answer Leo's questions. Before working in roles in Kentucky and in Kildangan, Ciara had attained a degree from the University of Limerick. She told the audience how she had always had a passion for learning and had never stopped asking questions. Ciara was eager to share that she had been unsuccessful in securing a position that she believed was her dream job in the past. However, this experience taught her that striving for her goals opened up new doors and possibilities. Ciara shared an important message with students: “That there will always be ups and downs, but it's crucial to keep pushing forward. I encourage you to view your career as a series of choices, and to make changes if something doesn't feel right. It's essential to find fulfilment outside of work and that you are more than just your job title. Work hard, but don't forget to enjoy life.”
During the panel session, all speakers, including Leo, emphasised the importance of setting your sights on your goals, making a plan to achieve them, and never giving up. Asking questions and continuous learning were also highlighted as essential aspects of success. All of these were very positive takeaways from a motivational panel discussion.
The college would like to extend a sincere thank-you to all the Career Discussion Panellists, and Leo Powell for providing an entertaining and educational discussion. The panellists each gave open accounts of their careers and demonstrated to CAFRE’s Equine students, anything is possible if you set your sights on it.
Enniskillen Campus offers equine courses from Level 2 through to BSc (Honours) Degree level. The campus is hosting an Open Day on Saturday 13th April, book to attend via the events section of the CAFRE website.
For further information on courses and how to apply for a course starting in September 2024, visit our website.
Notes to editors:
- Photo caption -
Enniskillen Campus spotlight on careers panellists: Leo Powell (The Irish Field), Paul Keane (Curragh Racecourse), Alison Bell (Groom for Yasmin Ingham), James Harrison (Stallion Manager), Cheryl Broderick (Ballypatrick Stables), Ciara Devitt (Godolphin) and Casey Webb (Smith Brother Eventing).
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