Westmeath pupil takes top honours in From Foal to Race TY programme with horse racing poem


Winning pupil Ruth Shanley from Columba College, Killucan

Seventeen-year-old Ruth Shanley, a transition year student from Columba College in Killucan, County Westmeath, was today announced as the winner of the 2023 From Foal To Race transition year (TY) programme with her poem titled the same name.
With some help from her classmates, Ruth’s poem was inspired by the process of raising a foal to becoming a winning racehorse.

Ruth won €1,000 for her school and a family pass to the Irish National Stud in County Kildare. Ruth and her class also win a VIP behind-the-scenes trip to a racecourse next autumn

The From Foal to Race TY programme was established in 2022 by equuip, Horse Racing Ireland’s education and training division, and Agri Aware, and is structured to create a learning experience for both student and teacher to enhance understanding and interest in all things horse racing.

This year for the end-of-programme project, pupils were tasked with submitting a reflection that demonstrated their learnings. Submissions received included poetry, essays, artwork and presentations on racing and breeding related topics.

This academic year, 5,334 students from 134 schools around the country participated in From Foal to Race TY programme – a 31% increase in participation compared to last year. The programme includes six chapters including horse-care basics, making a racehorse, breeding and stud farms. Students also participated in a series of interactive webinars and submitted a group project to complete the programme. In addition, the programme also covered transferable skills of group work, debate, public speaking, and research.

Competition winner, Ruth, commented: "My family, especially my sisters and I, love horses. I took part in equine therapy when I was younger which really helped me. I learned directions and colours by painting therapy horses with water colours. The Foal to Race programme was lots of fun and I enjoyed learning about all the stages it takes to get the horses from being a foal to the racecourse. It was my favourite project that we did as part of my TY year. I love videos and digital learning too, so it was a perfect fit for me.”

Ruth’s teacher, Enya Scally, said: “We are so proud, thrilled and delighted for Ruth winning the competition - it has brought huge excitement and buzz to the school at the end of the year. It was our first year to enter the From Foal to Race TY programme and found the programme excellent not only for students with interest in horses but also those with no equine background or experience. We are really excited about the class trip and look forward to taking part again next year.”
Elaine Burke, equuip Manager, commented: “It’s great to see the increase in interest levels and the uptake in The From Foal To Race TY programme since its inception last year. Our partnership with Agri Aware offers us a unique platform to engage with second level students, to enhance their understanding of the horse racing and breeding industry and the many career options available. Big congratulations must go to Ruth and her classmates. Her poem is a very creative reflection of the foal to racehorse story.

“Sincere thanks to all transition year classes from the 134 schools around the country who submitted projects, the calibre of entries was extremely high - we hope they enjoyed their time learning about the thoroughbred industry.”

Agri Aware Executive Director, Marcus O’Halloran, said: “The From Foal to Race programmes gives great opportunities for students to learn all about the horse racing industry here in Ireland and the journey of the thoroughbred horse from a foal to competing on the racecourse. It’s a great way of linking students with one of our great indigenous industries and one that Ireland is regarded as world-leaders.

“Agri Aware is delighted to be part of such initiatives like the From Foal to Race programme that educate TY students on this world-renowned industry. Congratulations to Ruth Shanley and well done to all that took part in the programme.”

The runner-up prize went to Sarah Archdeacon, Danielle O'Connor and Rachel Morton from Scoil Mhuire in Kanturk, County Cork, who won a day out at the Fethard Horse Country Experience in County Tipperary, to enjoy with their families.

Their video presentation included an interview with racehorse trainer Michael Winters while also fundraising for Irish Injured Jockeys.

From Foal to Race – a poem by Ruth Shanley

A foal so young and small
In my arms, I held it all
With love and care, I raised it tall
Hoping one day it would win them all. 

Training day by day, we worked hard,
Every hurdle we faced, we played our card
I watched it grow, strong and fast
Hoping it would become a champion at last.

And now we stand at the race track,
Nervous but excited, we won't look back
The gates wide open, we hear the sound
We race to the finish, feet on the ground.

And then we see, we've won the race
The joy in our hearts, we can't replace
Our foal now a horse, has made us proud
Our hard work and love, finally allowed.
Ruth won €1,000 for her school and a family pass to the Irish National Stud in County Kildare. Ruth and her class also win a VIP behind-the-scenes trip to a racecourse next autumn.