On a normal school day, Jed Curley would be sitting at a desk. But today, he’s sitting on a horse. 

The year 9 student is part of the Pastoral Operations Program at Derby District Senior High School in WA’s north west.

The program is run by farrier and teacher, Paul Noble. He takes the students to the local rodeo grounds twice a week. They use two of Mr Noble’s personal horses to learn how to tack up, lead, and ride the animals.

man putting on saddle blanket on a horse

Mr Noble teaches his students the basics of horsemanship but hopes they will progress with further sessions.(ABC Kimberely: Andrew Seabourne)

Mr Noble hopes students learn horsemanship skills that will prepare them for life in the pastoral industry.

“If I can take young people here who can ride a horse and they have some idea of the expectation of what a workday will be like, the conditions they’re going to be working in, and enthusiasm for it then they can almost hit the ground job-ready,” Mr Noble said.

In November, the program received $10,000 in funding from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal Heywire grants.

“The Heywire grant has been fantastic for us because it gives me validation that the program has value and other people saw the value in it,” Mr Noble said.

man leans against fence with a saddle on the fence in the foreground

Pastoral Operations program instructor Paul Noble looks on as students do yard work with the horses.(ABC Kimberley: Hinako Shiraishi)

He is hoping to put the money into buying new equipment for the program.

“It’s amazing how quickly a chest protector doesn’t last when teenager kids keep taking it on and off,” Mr Noble said.

According to a youth employment survey from 2018, 54 per cent of West Kimberley high school students surveyed did not know what they wanted to do after graduation. In fact, it was their biggest concern after leaving school followed by 29 per cent worried about not liking the career they chose.

woman infront of sign

Tracey Deegan from the North Regional TAFE Jobs and Skills Centre says programs like Pastoral Operations help students adjust to life after graduation.(ABC Kimberley: Hinako Shiraishi)

Tracey Deegan from the North Regional TAFE Jobs and Skills Centre says extracurricular activities like this can boost a student’s job prospects after school.

“Programs like these are fantastic at building transferable workplace skills as well as life skills that set students up for a smoother transition into full-time employment after school,” she said.

Although he is in year 9, Jed’s goal is to finish school and work on a station.

boy smiles at camera in red cap

Jed Curley hopes to get a job in the pastoral industry.(ABC Kimberley: Hinako Shiraishi)

“I haven’t heard of anywhere else that’s doing this, so I’m pretty happy Derby [District High School] started doing this. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now,” Jed said.

Fellow student Samson Waiomio has had some experience working on a station but he still appreciates the unique approach to education.

boy on a horse

Samson Waiomio enjoys being able to get out of the classroom and onto a horse.(ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne)

“I really enjoy working with this old boy Mister [the horse]. I’d rather be doing something outside of the classroom than inside,” Samson said.

The program has had success after being implemented last year in the therapeutic side of horse riding.

students wait by fence for horse riding lesson

Waiting their turn for a practical lesson in riding.(ABC Kimberley: Hinako Shiraishi)

“It’s the emotional side of horses and the good things horses can bring to some of our kids who are a little bit troubled,” Mr Noble said.

“We’ve got special needs kids from the primary school who come out and the disengaged kids as well.”

Derby’s principal, Eliot Money, has high hopes for the program.

“Hopefully by the end of the year … they’ll be learning how to shoe horses,” he said.

The school is planning to roll out the program to more students next year while hoping to get the program endorsed by School Curriculum And Standards Authority to contribute to a student’s WACE results.

boy scoops water to wash over horse

Year 9 student Jed Curley scoops some water to give the horses a cool down after a horsemanship lesson.(ABC Kimberley: Hinako Shiraishi)

‘Hitting the ground job-ready’: Horsemanship at high school boosts job prospects
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