Britain’s first international Black para rider hopes to break down barriers

  • Britain’s first international Black para rider hopes to become a role model for others in equestrianism, as the sport continues to work on inclusivity.

    Tegan Vincent-Cooke and her own Stolen Kiss contested the CPEDI3* freestyle at Addington last month. Tegan told H&H she hopes to compete at more events at this level and above – and be part of a British team.

    “I want to give it my best shot,” she said. “But even getting to where I am shows that you don’t have to be white or middle-class; you can be any level and of any race, we’re all here to enjoy horses and the sport.”

    Tegan comes from a non-horsey family, but started riding aged four as it was recommended by her physiotherapist. She started with the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and went on to become a four-time RDA champion.

    “Growing up with no hero, there wasn’t really anyone who looked like me at the top level; I found role models in other sports,” Tegan said, adding that she is often the only person of colour at events or training. And although a great deal of progress has been made in improving diversity and inclusivity, “there’s still lots that could be done”.

    She added that there are small issues that could be addressed to remove some barriers, such as competition uniform. It is hard to wear Afro hair in a bun and with a riding helmet, or to wear a stock with a headscarf.

    Georgina Urwin, who runs Summerfield Stables in Birmingham and is an advocate for inclusion in the industry, agrees there is work to be done. She cited a social media post by British Equestrian (BEF) wishing “Ramadan Mubarak (blessed Ramadan) to all the Muslim members of the equestrian community” at the start of Ramadan last month, on which there were some negative comments.

    “I wasn’t shocked; this is a very real issue in our sport and other sports,” she told H&H. “As soon as I saw that post, I knew there would be issues but when I looked back, the BEF had posted about Diwali and Hanukkah, and hadn’t got that response. It is an issue and it affects people’s self-confidence.

    “If you know people in the sport are thinking things like that, it affects you; if you make a mistake or fall off, you might be more self-conscious, so you don’t put yourself out there. It’s not a level playing field.”

    Ms Urwin said this was one aim of a new partnership with Solihull Riding Club, which allows Summerfield riders the chance to take the next step, in a welcoming environment.

    “I think this highlights why our project is so important, as there are extra barriers,” she said. “We want to give people a leg up and we need to make sure that if there is one negative comment on social media, there are 20 positive ones to outweigh it.”

    Ms Urwin said that during Ramadan, when people fast from sunrise to sunset, some members of Summerfield break their fast together as a community. They also sing carols at Christmas and do trick-or-treating at Halloween.

    “We’re trying to bring the community together and have understanding of everyone’s traditions and beliefs,” she said.

    “We need to act; our sport is seen as elitist and when negative things happen, it confirms that belief.”

    The BEF launched its “Horses for all” strategy at the end of 2023, as the culmination of work designed to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the industry.

    CEO Jim Eyre said at the time: “We recognise our need to do better and this document gives a blueprint to facilitate the positive change needed, and our action plan to generate change will soon be published. It’s our collective mission to encourage more people to engage with horses in a forum free from discrimination where equity is paramount, and we want to underpin our commitment to achieving this with our strategy.”

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