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Rehoming former Racehorses

Many horse owners around Manilla will treat their four-legged friends to an extra dipper of chaff for the August 1 official birthday this Sunday. But up Deepwater way at Ballyoch Horses, dozens of gallopers either too slow or who have reached their used-by date on the racetrack will enjoy many more birthday celebrations thanks to Patrick and Winsome Herde’sThoroughbred Rehoming Program.

Working in conjunction with Australian Of The Year’s 2020 Local Hero Bernie Shakeshaft and his popular BackTrack program at Armidale, the couple employ troubled youth on a rotational basis on their property just out of Deepwater. The youngsters – ranging in age from 12 to 20 years – have helped with not only the re-education of horses for the polo fields, showjumping circuit or one day eventing, but also for cattle work, fencing or even construction of new equine facilities on the property, according to Patrick.

“I love working with them. Just about everything here on the place is built by the kids. It gives them a lot of pride to see what they can actually do,” Patrick said.

Many of the youngsters have varied talents in certain areas, so at Ballyoch, they’re given the chance to enhance onthose skills.

“They may have different skills, so we get them to help with things like cattle, dozer or machinery work, fencing and helping with the horses. The last team we had put in a new watering system for the horses and cattle.It started with the kids coming two days a week and we’d teach them what we could, but it wasn’t really rewarding for them. That’s changed though, now it’s five days, and they love it – keep coming back. We tell them the harder they work, the better they get paid, and they really light up.”

Also an asset to Ballyoch Horses in the rehoming program is Finnish equestrienne Nora Eranpalo.

“She’s taken the retired racehorses to a completely new level by working on them and taking them around to showjumping events,” Patrick said.

Patrick Herde, who freely admits to an insatiable passion for working with horses, was born and reared in Goondiwindi, then fulfilled a childhood dream by heading north to the Kimberley after leaving school. There he worked in stock camps and breaking in horses for two years.

“The company I worked for wanted a fulltime contract breaker, so for the next six years, I did that along with ducking home to Gundy (Goondiwindi) to help with the family property. Then I met and married Winsome, and because we both preferred the cooler weather at Deepwater, decided to settlethere and build up our breaking in business.”

But building the business was tough according to Patrick.

“One month we’d have 30 horses, so would employ help and buy hay, then the next month we’d get two horses. It got frustrating. Then I listened to a podcast about the rehoming of racehorses, the idea being that it would not only create job opportunities for regional Australia, but also give the horses a good life after they’d finished racing. I put a proposal together for Racing NSW, knowing I’d have to present myself well, and they liked it. We work with probably around 10 retired racehorses on a rotational basis from Team Thoroughbred NSW, as well as continuing our own breaking-in business.”

Patrick and his wife though have a big goal – “we’d love to get into a thoroughbred breaking in and pre-training business, though we’d probably need a couple of trainers to back us. Then we could employ more of the kids,” he said. By Vinnie Todd