BUDDING stockmen and graziers are in the midst of receiving a prime learning experience at Geoff and Vicki Toomby's Wonderland Station, Alice River, Townsville.
The group of five young men and one woman are being taught the ropes of the trade from rural trainers Geoff and Vicki, who specialise in basic and advanced horsemanship, colt starting, equine manipulation based on muscles and ligaments, groundwork, float loading and quiet effective stock handling.
The trainees were recruited by the Toombys and are being prepared for the NTCA (Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association), where they have guaranteed employment in the Northern Territory once their training is complete in three to four weeks.
Geoff said at present they were learning horsemanship skills for safety and saddling and they recently took part in a cattle muster.
He said it was a unique opportunity, because not only were they learning new skills, it was also a paid job and they would be guaranteed employment when the course finished.
"They are gaining skills that are recognised within the industry and we will make sure that they are placed in full time employment after the course," Geoff said.
"This is in contrast to other training programs that do the training program and leave the trainees to their own devices in regards to employment.
"We will teach them the basics, but the sky's the limit as far as where they can take their skills.
"They could become horse trainers, saddlers, leading hands, head stockman, chopper pilots or managers on stations if they excel."
The group came over from another training facility where they said they'd had a "rough time" of it.
"The other mob didn't really help us much. We weren't really learning anything because they didn't have enough time to teach us. The worst thing was we didn't get paid for our work, even though we were supposed to be," trainee Dimitri Shortjoe said.
Dimitri said the experience with the Toombys had been much more positive.
"It's heaps better here. We're learning more and we actually have to explain what we're doing to Geoff and Vicki and the other trainees as we go the through the various processes, such as saddling a horse," he said.
The Toombys have been trying to create a fully-fledged training school on the station for years now, but until recently they received no support from the state government.
"The new regime has had a totally different t attitude towards the idea, and we now have the green light to go ahead with the idea," Geoff said.
"We should have a letter of offer from the Department of Natural Resources and Mining by the end of July and then it's up to Townsville City Council approval," he said.
Geoff said the course would run for six weeks, which would involve a similar program to that which the current group of trainees is following, including plans to provide accommodation for the students.