‘This is what I pray for’: riders’ dreams start to become reality

  • Young riders from underrepresented communities have enjoyed access to top-class training and taken a step towards their “dreams becoming a reality” thanks to British Eventing (BE) and the Howden Way.

    This month 20 Cool Ridings members took part in a BE Howden Way regional training academy, held at the British Showjumping National Training Centre in Leicestershire. Cool Ridings was formed in 2020 by Jamaican event rider Lydia Heywood, to improve diversity and ensure long-term sustainability in equestrian sport, while the Howden Way regional academies are a new BE initiative that provide training to riders “no matter their age or ability”.

    The riders, some of whom had competition experience and some who are relatively new to riding and had borrowed horses, were trained by BE level four coach Michael Paveley. The sessions focused on flatwork, a practice trot-up, and showjumping, and a feed and nutrition session was provided by Baileys Horse Feeds.

    “I come from a deprived area in London and I haven’t had many opportunities with horses, but I have a passion which has enabled me to create opportunities,” said 18-year-old rider Fabian Williams.

    “To have the chance to ride with a BE level four coach feels surreal because coming from Inner London, where there are absolutely no opportunities like this, it felt unreachable, unreal and unimaginable. These are the things I pray for and being able to attend, felt like my dreams were becoming a reality.”

    Lydia said Cool Ridings recognises that bringing riders from underrepresented communities together for training creates an “enormous amount of camaraderie and confidence”, which is vital for progressing in equestrian sport.

    “I had high expectations for this but the experience certainly went above and beyond them,” she said.

    “Michael Paveley made the perfect coach with his kind, wise and well-informed approach. I am overjoyed to witness these academies in action and the spectacular syllabus that was distributed. We are truly very grateful for the opportunities that have been made available to us by BE and the Howden Way.”

    Justine Parker, BE head of training and development, said it had been an “inspirational day” and the talent and commitment of the riders had been “exceptional”.

    “This is the first academy of its kind that we have run, and it has been an absolute success on so many levels,” she said.

    “This absolutely reinforces why we should be delivering days like this for specific groups of riders, who may not normally have had access to our academies which run across the country for our members. By creating a bespoke day to cater for those who were borrowing horses and were perhaps coming to their first ever training day, it allowed them to take on the day confidently without the added pressure they may have felt otherwise.”

    Ms Parker added that one of the “core messages” of the Howden Way training structure is that it is to be a “vehicle to deliver safe, governed and top-level training to all riders that may wish to access it”.

    “The academies are open to non-members for their first two sessions, and we trust that today’s riders will feel it has given them a stepping stone to move into our national Howden Way regional academies with confidence,” she said.

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