A grant of £180,000 a year from 2021 to 2025 has been announced to help bring more young people from all backgrounds into pony racing, with the aim of kickstarting their careers in the industry.
The Racing Foundation grant, totalling £900,000, is to develop formal pathways of activities as a progressive route into the racing industry.
The scheme will be overseen by the Pony Racing Authority (PRA), in collaboration with Racing to School, the Pony Club and Careers in Racing.
It will build on the work already done independently by those organisations, and others, and there is a particular focus on expanding the work around improving diversity and inclusion.
The PRA has already established links with inner-city groups in London, Gloucester, Liverpool, Banbury, Leicester and Worcester, but the funding will help widen this to reach youngsters in more Pony Club centres and inner-city riding schools.
“We are very excited to be part of this historic strategy,” said PRA chief executive Clarissa Daly.
“For the first time, racing will have a recruitment plan for its junior league. Introducing young people from all backgrounds, making it possible for them to participate in pony racing, will benefit racing in the long term.”
The money will go towards pony racing academies, for youngsters with no link to racing and no pony of their own, Pony Club camp visits, training days and pony racing days, taster sessions and fun days, careers advice and further training, training of pony racing instructors, school visits and recruitment fairs, plus stand-alone pony racing days.
There are also plans to develop a track and trace system to follow the progression of young people moving into racing.
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A study was commissioned by the PRA to look at barriers preventing children from engaging and taking part in pony racing, and a number of the activities have been developed in direct response to that.
“So often racing can seem out of reach to many, but these initiatives will take access to racing straight into the heart of communities and groups, giving them a chance to participate,” said Zoe Elliott, head of careers, marketing and recruitment at the British Horseracing Authority. “By getting involved, young people will both have the opportunity to increase their skills but also the confidence to see that racing welcomes them as a sport they could be involved in for life; as a fan, participant or employee”.
To date, more than 100 youngsters have taken part in pony racing academies across 28 schemes, and 21 graduates now work in the industry.
As of July 2020, 179 pony racing graduates hold a licence to ride in the UK, with graduates including Harry Cobdon, Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand, Jonjo O’Neill Jr and Bryony Frost.
Tansy Challis, grants manager at the Racing Foundation, said of the activities it has helped fund in recent years, response to pony racing activities in particular has been very positive.
“The focus on inclusivity and diversity is especially important to protect the future of the sport and we believe that pony racing will provide the ideal conduit for a youth engagement programme that will shape the jockeys, racing staff and racing supporters of the future,” she added.
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