Young equestrians from an inner-city riding school made their racecourse debut at none other than the hallowed ground of Ascot earlier this week.
Members of Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club have been learning to race-ride over the past 18 months in a joint scheme with the Pony Racing Authority (PRA).
Four aspiring jockeys from south east London have been taking part in the initiative, which has also enlisted the help of Julie and Patrick Scott of Appletree Stud in Banbury.
On Monday (10 April), two of these members — Grace Mpungi and Abdus Mellah — both aged 13, rode in their first race at the Lord Leconfield Hunt’s Pony Club Raceday at Ascot.
Their respective rides were Eddy and Trigger, both leant by Park Lane Stables in Teddington.
“To begin with I felt a bit sick because I was so nervous,” said Grace. “The race went by in a flash — I went faster than I have ever been before and I was really proud of myself.
“For me to be racing at a prestigious place like Ascot gives me a great story to tell my family and friends. I would definitely do it again.”
They were joined by a support team of family, friends, volunteers, youth workers and fellow Ebony Horse Club members.
“I had an amazing day and loved the environment,” said Abdus (pictured, top).
“It was a good learning opportunity and it taught me what I should and shouldn’t do for next time.
“I went so fast as I rode up I could see the stands and the scenery was mind blowing. I had this rush of adrenaline. I love racing!”
Ebony Horse Club is a charity that offers young people an opportunity to learn to ride and care for horses.
Based between tower blocks and a railway line in Coldharbour — one of the most disadvantaged areas of the capital — the charity provides access to horses for more than 160 youngsters a week.
Edward Gillespie, former managing director at Cheltenham and PRA chairman, has been among those helping the young riders. He also attended the day and gave the supporters a tour of the world-famous racecourse and to explain the ins and outs of racing.
“Seeing Grace and Abdus ride so well in their first ever races was a real thrill,” he said. “Many, many congratulations to all the team at Ebony Horse Club for taking this project on with such enthusiasm and expertise.
“This is just the beginning and the PRA looks forward to working with Ebony and other city-centre equestrian academies to give young people an opportunity to fulfill a dream of experiencing race-riding.”
Letty Porter, engagement and funding manager at Ebony Horse Club, told H&H that it was the “most amazing day”.
“To have Brixton riders on Ascot racecourse was just incredible,” she added. “What was amazing about the whole day was that it was a replica of a professional race meeting.
“The young riders had to be registered and weigh-in with their saddles — it was all done very properly — and there were escort ponies to take the combinations down to the racetrack.
“That was what made it so incredibly special.”
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