Michelle Payne helps juniors learn to ride horses in Ballarat school holiday program

LEADING EXAMPLE: Michelle Payne offers advice to Mercedes Hobson, age 12, who is riding Harriet in the Ballarat Saddle Up session on Tuesday. Picture: Kate Healy
LEADING EXAMPLE: Michelle Payne offers advice to Mercedes Hobson, age 12, who is riding Harriet in the Ballarat Saddle Up session on Tuesday. Picture: Kate Healy

MELBOURNE Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne was back on her home track helping children learn to ride a horse, many for the first time, on Tuesday.

Ms Payne considered herself incredible fortunately to be growing up on a farm, right over the back of the Dowling Forest course, playing with horses every day. She relished a chance to share this experience, even if just a little, with children who might not get a chance to ride ponies much under Racing Victoria's Saddle Up Spring Series.

"It's about being confident around the horses, they'll sense it if you're not, and just to share these beautiful animals we get to work with every day," Ms Payne said.

"(Horses are) very unique in that they're so intuitive, you can really build a connection with them. They know your mood, they know as soon as you're walking towards them if you're happy or in a bad mood.

"I love that they can really learn to trust you and you can teach them anything. If you get their trust and they want to work with you, it's the best feeling in the world."

The Saddle Up session comes two days before the nationwide cinema release of Ride Like A Girl, detailing Ms Payne's life growing up in Ballarat and her path to winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup.

Ms Payne said she took being a role model seriously - a profile likely to be amplified by the movie - and how important it was to have good role models in life, no matter what industry.

She hoped all the children taking part in Saddle Up who get to watch the movie learn anything was possible, if you wanted to do it.

"Racing hasn't always been easy, it's not easy in any sport...I had such great role models in my life with my older sisters and female jockeys before me and other great sports people I really got to look up to," Ms Payne said.

Michelle Payne works with Josh MacLeod, age 7, who is on Perfection. Picture: Kate Healy

Michelle Payne works with Josh MacLeod, age 7, who is on Perfection. Picture: Kate Healy

"If I can be one of those for these young children, that's really special to me."

Primary school-aged children in the session took part in fun activities aimed to connect youngsters with horses and racing.

Saddle Up events will also roll out in Werribee, Flemington, The Valley (Moonee Valley), Geelong and Pakenham this school holidays.

Ride Like A Girl had its regional premiere in Ballarat earlier this month and will open nationally on Thursday.

This story Michelle Payne helps Ballarat juniors learn to 'saddle up' near home straight first appeared on The Courier.