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New academy to give young people access to ponies in the home of racing

A new academy to bring horses and ponies to those who would otherwise not have access to them is to launch in Newmarket in April.

The Newmarket Pony Academy (NPA) will be based at the British Racing School and has been working with local schools, West Suffolk Council, Godolphin and the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust.

“Despite being the headquarters of racing, Newmarket does not currently provide an opportunity for its young people to learn to ride unless they are fortunate enough to have family involvement,” the NPA said in a statement, adding that it “seeks to change this”.

The NPA will host one-week courses for year six pupils to introduce them to ponies while helping them to engage in core subjects on the school curriculum, and has also pledged to “provide the opportunity to re-establish” a Newmarket Riding For the Disabled Association group.

It will be home to breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs for at-risk young people, who have been identified by teachers and social workers as likely to face challenges as they move to secondary school or are at a risk of being drawn into criminality.

As well as this, it will have a one-day per week course for students from the Newmarket Academy Polaris centre, which provides bespoke education for young people of secondary school age with communication and interaction needs.

“Horses are the fabric of Newmarket, but the majority of children growing up here have no opportunity to even touch one. We believe we have a responsibility to change that and make the positives of involvement with horses available to as many people as possible,” said Penny Taylor, UK charities manager at Godolphin.

The NPA will also work in partnership with existing city riding clubs, such as The Urban Equestrian Academy in Leicester and Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, with residential weeks at the British Racing School to learn about racehorses and the industry.

British Racing School finance director Andrew Braithwaite thanked the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Trust and Godolphin for their support.

“The case for racing becoming more open and inclusive is clear and the NPA will allow us and the wider industry to give young people a real insight into horseracing regardless of their background and, for those bitten by the bug, a route into the industry,” said Mr Braithwaite.

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Students from Newmarket Academy and Sybil Andrews Academy took part in the NPA’s pilot and the schools’ executive headteacher Nick Froy said they returned to school with “increased positivity and confidence”.

“I am convinced that engaging with the NPA will be a transformational activity for the young people of Newmarket and its surrounding areas that will make a real difference to their futures,” he added.

West Suffolk Council leader Cllr John Griffiths said this is a “great project” of “real benefit for young people in Newmarket” and he hopes it will help “many young people learn new skills and gain confidence, both now and in later life”.

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