How horses at an outback school are helping teach respect and maths

Doomadgee 4830
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(Supplied: Kane Chenoweth) ABC North West Qld


Harriet Tatham


April 04, 2018 06:36:56

With Doomadgee surrounded by cattle stations, many students already have an interest in horses.

In one of the most disadvantaged local government areas in the country, a school has launched a unique program using horses to boost attendance and create job opportunities.The remote Aboriginal community of Doomadgee, 500 kilometres north of Mount Isa and 140 kilometres from the Northern Territory border, is surrounded by cattle stations.Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the town was the eighth most socio-economically disadvantaged local government area in Australia.With about one in five people unemployed, Doomadgee State School has designed a horsemanship program to entice students back to school, and equip them with skills suitable for the environment. “There’s a lot of interest in horses and horse work in Doomadgee, and we’re also seeing it as a future pathway for many of our students.” Saddling, grooming and ridingThe elective horsemanship program is held two days each week and is run by local horseman Moses Foster who has been riding since he was three. (Supplied: Kane Chenoweth)
“It’s designed to hopefully re-engage some of our senior students who are really into horses, but have disengaged from school,” principal Paula McGuire said. Photo:
The school has designed a horsemanship program with Moses Foster to entice students back to school.
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“I teach them from the ground up — like how to groom the horses, and look after the horses, feed them, and then gradually teach them how to catch a horse and saddle them up,” he said.”Once they know how to do that I give them a ride. (Supplied: Kane Chenoweth) “In our four-year strategic plan that we started this year, we’ve actually written into our plan that we needed to bring culture back into our school, and [horsemanship] is part of the culture and history of Doomadgee.””It’s essential for the students’ own identity, and to start utilising the skills of our indigenous workers and people in this community.”And for Ms Foster, sharing the knowledge he inherited from his father makes him proud. I lead them around at first, but once they’re confident I let them go.”

Students are taught how to groom, feed, catch and saddle horses before they learn to ride. (Supplied: Kane Chenoweth)
Respect and mathematicsAside from teaching Doomadgee students to ride horses, Mr Foster said his classes would help teach respect — and mathematics.”They’re learning how to look after themselves as well. “Once they get out on the field they’ll learn how to add and count and subtract, because all those station hands — it’s about how many horses you need to round up a head of cattle.”And Mr Foster believes these skills can lead directly into employment.”Some of them might want to be a horseman one day, so when they finish school they can just go out and slot straight into a station hand job.”

Student Thomasina Foot is enjoying learning horse skills. “[I’m a] bit proud of myself of what I’m handing down to the kids.””Doomadgee was a cattle-run industry before I was born, so it’s something to pass down to them through history. They have to care for their horse like they care for other people, and treat other people the same,” he said. (Supplied: Kane Chenoweth)
Connecting with Doomadgee’s cultural historyWhile the program was designed to create jobs, Ms McGuire said it was also about creating a cultural connection with the history of the local cattle industry. It’s been passed down to me so I’ll pass it down to them.”

Moses Foster says it’s a honour to share horse skills with the students.

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(ABC News) Moses Foster and Paula McGuire on Doomadgee State School's horsemanship program.