Tuesday 23 September 2014

Learning network riding high

Michael Moran

Published 22/04/2014 | 05:40

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Noel O'Hara and Arrow, Darren Gurhy and Arnie, David O'Rourke and Cruise On, Martha Fitzpatrick on Polo, Shane McGuiness and Bambi, Samantha Colburn on Jig Saw, some of the participants in the NLN Horsemanship programme pictured with Gwen McDermott and Grainne McGarry at Sligo Riding Centre.

OLYMPIC and Aga Khan showjumpers have competed there.

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They include Collooney's Darragh Kearins, Clem McMahon and greats such as Eddie Macken and Paul Darragh.

Sligo Riding Centre, Carrowmore, is an iconic venue in equine sport. It is also home to a new programme for the unemployed.

They're learning horsemanship skills with the aim of finding a career in one of Ireland's biggest industries.

Eleven jobless people are taking part in the National Learning Network Solas funded FETAC foundation and training course.

Horsemanship Instructor, Gwen McDermott explained: "We started last September and this is the first ever course at this level.

"It's for those who are out of work for one reason or another and who are interested in a career with horses.

"Research has shown that there are job opportunities out there.

"It's also an ideal stepping stone to further education if people wish to pursue that path."

Gwen works with Sligo Riding Centre instructor Grainne McGarry and Sharon Thornton, Manager, National Learning Network, Sligo in delivering the innovative programme.

She said: "It's a full time two-year programme and results in a major FETAC award for those involved. It incorporates seven different modules, two of them in partnership with the Sligo Riding Centre.

"They are horse riding and stable yard routine."

The others are work place safety, work experience, personal effectiveness, team working and health.

Gwen added: "We have a continuous intake and interest is good.

"We work with each individual to maximise their strengths and abilities and put them on the road to work, or more education.

"It's been going well over the past eight months."

The practical element of the course at the Riding Centre includes grooming, 'mucking out' and horse riding lessons in the morning and afternoon.

Gwen said: "The majority of people involved would never have ridden a horse before.

"They are improving all the time.

"You can see their positivity and confidence building."

Participants use the Riding Centre school horses.

They also have the support of a rehabilitation officer and resource teachers.

Aga Khan winner Clem McMahon, who is married to Sligo native Stacey Kennedy of Ard-Na-Veigh, officially launched the programme recently.

Gwen said: "We are very happy at how things have gone so far.

"The programme gives people who may never have had the opportunity to work and train with horses, the chance to do just that."

Sligo Champion

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