For Nicole Stewart, there was no other career choice but the challenge of working with horses.
Since she was a mere toddler, sitting atop a horse with her uncle on his 250-hectare property at Yarrawonga, Nicole, 20, of Beaumaris, has been 'absolutely passionate' about horses, beginning riding lessons a couple of years later after nagging her parents for lessons.
Nicole started her journey into her equine world at just five-years-old, learning to ride and becoming more and more focused on horses as the centre of her life.
Now, as a first-year student in a specialist, three-year equine studies bachelor degree at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), Nicole has found the 'perfect' course to carve out a career in the equine industry.
'My parents waited for me to grow out of my childhood obsession with horses, but it never happened,' Nicole said. ' I always wanted to work with horses, and NMIT's degree suits me perfectly. It has a strong practical aspect which gives me direct experience while I'm learning and has a sound scientific basis which I love,' Nicole said.
'The fact that I study not just the superficial aspects of the horse but am learning to understand it on a much deeper level really appeals to me.'
Nicole stressed the hands-on experience was a bonus at NMIT's 300-hectare thoroughbred stud, Northern Lodge, where she could directly apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.
Studies included in the first-year of the degree focus on equine behaviour from a scientific perspective where Nicole is learning about the cognitive ability of the horse and the way in which horses learn.
'This training helps make us better trainers and the lecturer, Andrew McLean, who taught me privately as a riding instructor, is really impressive. He's a renown figure in the industry.'
Nicole said the anatomy and physiology were contributing to the 'big picture' of how a horse worked and while she had a grasp of the complex systems of the horse before embarking on the degree program, ' I didn't realise how intricate those systems were and they never cease to amaze me.'
She added the course had 'opened my eyes to the importance of things that might have seemed like minor details in the past.
'I also really appreciate the intimate and nurturing learning environment at NMIT where the lecturers are all so approachable and there to help with anything I need.'
Nicole, who has been competing in equestrian events such as dressage, showjumping and cross country throughout her teenage years, first started working in the industry when she was in Year 5 at school in 1998. She was receiving riding lessons at the Melbourne School of Pony Equitation when the owner offered her a job on weekends and after school cleaning up the paddocks, assisting in riding lessons and feeding the horses.
'That's where I gained an understanding of doing more than just riding and I worked there until 2001 with my pay going towards riding lessons.'
In 2005, Nicole bought her first horse and now has two in her keep which she agists at Dingley.
She still rides about five times a week after NMIT classes and on weekends and horses are still her number one priority.
'My study now involves my love of horses so I don't feel I have to force myself to study because I'm studying what I love.'
While she entertains a quiet dream to compete in the Olympic Games in the not too distant future in equestrian events, she also wants a career in breeding and training horses for eventing after completing her degree.
Meanwhile, she is engaged in her studies where she can combine her passion for horses with an appropriate academic challenge.
'It's all worked out perfectly for me and fingers crossed for my future.'
Degree course inquiries: Tel NMIT: (03) 9269-1042
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, 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.
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener.