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New Manager at NMIT's Northern Lodge Stud

26 Mar 2013

As a mere four-year-old, Ros Durrant used to sit atop a horse and ride around the box while the horse was having his exercise.

Ros' father, George Whitworth, was foreman for the late legendary Sydney trainer, Tommy Smith, and the family lived at Travel Boy Lodge where Ros was surrounded by horses and all-things equine.

Inevitable perhaps, that she would develop a passion for horses -' it was in my blood; horses are just so majestic; so charismatic that I just loved everything about the industry.'

Now, after nearly four decades working in the industry, Ros has become the new Manager of Northern Lodge Stud in Eden Park, the educational training facility of Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).

The 300-hectare stud boasts 44 commercial mares and two stallions, Flying Gulch and Command Post , and offers certificate, diploma and bachelor degree students in equine studies, first-hand, direct training experience at the facility.

'As one of the leading educational studs in Australia, I hope to develop Northern Lodge even further as a top training establishment for students wanting careers in the equine industry, as well as ensuring the yearlings we produce are first-class,' Ros said.

' I love working with students and seeing them embrace an industry that I embraced as a young woman. And after all my years in the industry, I still have the passion and drive I had all those years ago.

'My new role offers me the opportunity to share my knowledge, skills and passion with the students so they can optimise their educational opportunities and reap the rewards of studying at a professional, modern, first-class stud.'

Ros added the challenge ahead was to operate the stud as both a facility for training with its various teaching programs and its work as a breeding stud by producing some of the best yearlings in the industry.

As a female entering the industry in the early 1970s, Ros said it was 'a tough experience' as there were few women employed at that time.

Being female, she explained, meant you had to perform your duties twice as well as the males and while it was a still a man's industry, there were now more women involved and the reality of the workplace was changing.

'I take my new appointment at NMIT as a great, personal accomplishment where I can work with staff in a team environment. I love the industry and this is a wonderful position for me.'

Growing up in the environs of Tommy Smith's stables, Ros first learned to ride when she was about nine-years-old after haranguing her father for riding lessons.

Tommy Smith provided one of his female staffers to tutor her in riding skills at Centennial Park, and just two years later, she was riding the horses to Randwick Racecourse from Travel Boy Lodge on Saturday mornings before sunrise for the regular race meetings.

And after her school day was over, Ros would spend all her spare time in the stables with her father and the horses.

At 12-years-of-age, Ros' family moved to Sunbury, in Victoria, where her father managed St Ronans Stud.

While Ros was still attending school, she was impassioned by just one dream - to get out and work in the industry. Despite protests from her high school principal - 'I was a good student', Ros abandoned her academic studies at 16 and went to work with her father who was then employed at Birchwood Stud in Whittlesea as Yearling Manager.

'My first year out of school, I helped Dad with yearling preparation and when he changed jobs to go to country Victoria, I stayed in Whittlesea and joined Jade Valley Stud. I was there working with the late Brendan Fitzgerald, who went on to become manager of Northern Lodge for NMIT. Brendan taught me to be a top trackrider and I also flirted with being a jockey.

'I had 12 rides for one winner in 1976 at a Seymour race meeting, but my skills as a race rider weren't that great and I gave it away.'

Ros stayed at Jade Valley for eight years and was involved with working for some of the great trainers, Colin Hayes and Bob Hoysted.

For her last three years there, she was forewoman of the stud. She then started working for trainer Terry Millard at Kilmore as assistant forewoman and broke in one of history's great horses, Centaine .

She then moved to Ballarat with her husband, Leon Durrant, where they operated their own business as consultants and advisers to the racing industry as well as breeding their own horses. They had the business for 20 years before Leon passed away and Ros moved back to Whittlesea where she joined Northern Lodge ; albeit as a casual staff member in 2004.

She went on to become assistant manager to Ron Merrick, before he left last year.

In her new position as manager, Ros will also be in charge of yearling preparation.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.