After years of uncertainty, equestrian enthusiasts wishing to turn their passion into a career are once again able to study for a fully accredited tertiary qualification at a national institute.

Telford, New Zealand’s only specialist rural polytechnic, became part of the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in 2019, and with that partnership came a commitment to continuing and developing the Equine programme offered there.

Located in the heart of South Otago at Balclutha, just 50 minutes south of Dunedin, the Telford campus is an equine paradise. The Telford Equine Unit is a fully equipped yard, with 24 loose boxes, 60×40 indoor arena, outdoor arena, round pen, jumps, yards and paddocks. With extensive hacking over the 921ha home farm, nearby beaches and forests, students have everything they need right on their doorstep, as well as being within an hour each way of two major show venues at Gore and Mosgiel.

The study environment is just as impressive, with a dedicated classroom which includes a yard in which a horse can be brought in for live teaching! One of the newest topics to be added to the programme is that of equine reproduction. Loan stallions, experience the full range of equine reproductive work during their course, including stallion training and handling, live service, semen collection, insemination and foaling.

The academic focus for 2020 is on the Sporthorse Care and Equipment programme, which is designed to serve the fast-growing sport horse industry, both in NZ and overseas. This full-year NZQA Level 3 programme includes both the New Zealand Certificate in Equine Skills (Level 3) – Sporthorse Stable Assistant and the New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Operational Skills (Level 3) qualifications.

The Sporthorse Stable Assistant qualification produces grooms and riders who are work-ready for employment in any sport horse discipline. Whether you want a career as a groom, or are a rider wanting to head to an overseas yard, this programme will help equip you with the knowledge and skill required to land a position. Students study topics such as nutrition, health, physiology, preparation programmes, farriery and tack, as well as acquire the hands-on skills required. The included NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Operational Skills means graduates are qualified in the management of land and use of land-based machinery such as tractors and ATVs, which is essential knowledge for anyone responsible for keeping horses in New Zealand conditions.

Equine students can bring their own horses or can lease a horse from Telford. The lease horses are carefully matched to student capabilities and discipline interests. And it’s not just the students in the Equine programme that benefit from being able to immerse themselves in all things equine while they study, students studying other Telford programmes such as the Certificate or Diploma in Agriculture, or Rural Veterinary Technician are able to board their horses and dogs on site with full access to the facilities too!

The rest of the 25ha residential main campus area is such a beautiful place that it’s no wonder almost all students prefer to live in the Hostel accommodation on campus rather than in town. The Telford student community is close-knit, friendly and fun-loving, an environment that sees students forming life-long friendships and a strong attachment to the institute itself. Graduates from decades past often call in if in the area to revisit their time there, many describing it in ways such as ‘the best time of my life’, ‘the most fun and rewarding place to study and live’ and ‘a perfect place’. The campus is so popular in fact that it’s not uncommon for it to be hired out in the summer break to host a wedding – the manicured park-like campus and picture-perfect original ‘Stone House’ farmhouse providing a stunning backdrop for wedding photos. More than one wedding has even been for graduates marrying someone they met while studying!

While we can’t promise you’ll meet your human soul-mate during your time at Telford, it’s certainly the place to go for equestrians looking for a qualification suitable to enter the Equine industry. With the facilities, fun and friendship on offer, you’re sure to have an unforgettable student experience!