HORSING around has taken on a new meaning for a group of local Aboriginal teenagers, as the boys head out to a cattle station each week to learn about life on the land.
A group of seven students from Gunnedah's Gunida Gunyah Aboriginal Corporation have been making the trip to Tamworth and Kootingal Horse Riding Adventures every Wednesday for the past five weeks.
Jason Newman and Christine Ogilvie run the cattle station, and said it's been a delight to have the visitors around.
"It has been absolutely unbelievable to see how these kids have reacted to the horses, the cattle, the agricultural side of things," Mr Newman told the Leader.
"They're just excelling at everything they do ... the whole group is, in the way that they're developing and have really stepped up."
The group of boys have been learning the ropes of working the land.
"They've done a bit of fencing, they've done a lot around the horses, they've learnt to catch and saddle their own horses and their riding skills have really improved, they're doing team building exercises," Mr Newman said.
"We had them boiling billies the other day and setting up sheep yards."
Midway through the ten-week program, Mr Newman said he has noticed a difference, and said the students' school attendance has gone "through the roof".
"Apart from one young fella... this has definitely been the first time they've interacted with horses and cattle and life on the farm," he said.
"It's about getting the guys out here and having a look and they can start thinking that this isn't a bad way of life, doing something on the land."
A crucial aspect of the program has been the involvement of the animals - including the station's beloved ponies.
"A horse will respond to one thing and that's kindness, and everyone's got it," Mr Newman said.
Mr Newman and Ms Ogilvie have wanted to launch a program at their property for young people, to pass on skills, after being inspired by a past working life in Western Australia.
But, then COVID-19 hit, and plans were put on pause.
Having Gunida Gunyah Aboriginal Corporation sign on for this school term was a happy moment for the pair.
"I think we are so passionate to give these kids that haven't had the opportunity before to come out and learn with the horses, learn with the cattle, learn on the station, and it's probably something we take a little bit for granted."
Tamworth and Kootingal Horse Riding Adventures plans to play host to more programs down the track, a concept that's been cemented by the positive experience of the Gunida Gunyah group. More information is on the business' Facebook page.