Horses for courses

Western Sydney TAFE is reporting an unprecedented surge of interest in the racing and equine industry from female jockeys.

Of the 265 students currently enrolled in apprenticeships, traineeships and short courses at the Australian Racing and Equine Academy at Richmond, more than half are female.

No doubt inspired by Michelle Payne's historic win of the Melbourne Cup last year, these women have been flocking to the sport in such large numbers that many race fields, especially those in rural areas, are now dominated by women riders.

This tipping of the gender scales has led to an increase in awareness of the health and safety issues in jockeys' training. A new "horse safe" course is now mandatory training for all jockeys who wish to be licensed.

So far the women are showing that they are just as skilled as jockeys as their male counterparts, leading Western Sydney TAFE Institute Director, Robin Shreeve, to describe them as a "powerhouse of talent" that the Institute is very eager to support.