An “impressive” poem from Ruth Shanley of Columba College in Killucan, Co Westmeath saw her win the 2023 ‘From Foal to Race’ transition year programme. On Thursday 16 November, Ruth and her classmates took a trip to Punchestown Racecourse in Co Kildare to celebrate her success.

This was part of the winning prize along with receiving €1,000 for her school and a family pass to the Irish National Stud. The programme is run by Agri Aware in partnership with equuip.

Speaking about the 2023 winning entry, Agri Aware Executive Director Marcus O’Halloran said Ruth’s winning poem typifies all that the programme stands for.

“Ruth has spoken about her and her family’s love for horses and how much of an impact they had on her growing up,” he said.

“To have a programme that reaches students like Ruth and gives great opportunities for students to learn about the horse racing industry and the journey of the thoroughbred horse from a foal to competing on the racecourse, is very satisfying.”

Killucan College Deputy Principal Margaret Coady, students of Columba College Killucan, equuip’s Aine O’Connor, Agri Aware Executive Director Marcus O’Halloran, equuip’s Heather Downey and Agri Aware General Manager Aimee Gray at Punchestown Racecourse.

The future of the industry

Elaine Burke, equuip manager, highlights the importance of incorporating youth into Irish Racing as it is essential for the future of the industry.

“It ensures the continued growth and evolution of the sport, as well as the passing on of knowledge to the next generation of enthusiasts,” she said. “Ruth’s poem was truly impressive, capturing the nurturing that a thoroughbred receives to help it develop from a foal to a racehorse.”

According to Elaine, this left a lasting impression on all who experienced her work.

About the programme

The 2023 ‘From Foal to Race’ educational programme saw 5,334 students from 134 schools gain a comprehensive overview of the horse racing industry across a 12-week period.

Teachers and students were given an insight into the industry with a strong focus on increasing awareness of the careers that feature throughout the foal to race story. The programme features topics relevant to the Leaving Certificate cycle in the areas of biology, business, agricultural science, design and communication.

Agri Aware and equuip joined Ruth and her classmates on the VIP behind-the-scenes trip to Punchestown where they launched the TY programme, now in its third year.

“We saw an amazing uptake in the programme this year and we are hoping for further growth in 2024 so that Agri Aware alongside equuip can reach more second-level students across Ireland to enhance their understanding of the Irish horse racing and breeding industry,” said Marcus.

The 2024 programme is now open for registration. For more information


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