Award-winning equestrian hopes to inspire others *H&H Plus*

  • An equestrian feed company founder who won a prestigious Black British Business Award hopes her success will inspire BAME people across the industry. H&H spoke to her, and others, about progress towards greater diversity in equestrianism

    AN equestrian entrepreneur hopes her recent prestigious award will help inspire other young BAME people into all areas of the industry.

    Sandra Murphy, founder and managing director of Equidiet UK, was announced as the consumer and luxury senior leader winner of the Black British Business Awards, on 30 October.

    Ms Murphy, whose brand has a European patent, making her the first Black woman to secure such a patent in the UK, is also the founder of the BAME Equine and Rural Activities Focus Group (BERF), which aims to “support, encourage, inspire, educate and progress members of the BAME community in all disciplines, all areas of the equine industry and all rural activities”.

    Ms Murphy told H&H she hopes her win will inspire others.

    “I was very excited about the win; there were a lot of dynamic, entrepreneurial people in that category, and the award recognises how hard we’ve worked,” she said.

    “This represents achievement by a Black female and a Black business, and the fact it’s a Black woman in the equestrian industry, I hope will act as a platform.

    “I want to inspire Black women, and young Black business people, and those in the equestrian industry. Not just riding – in all areas.”

    Ms Murphy says she has struggled to be accepted in the industry, but that this award is timely, with greater awareness of the drive to increase diversity.

    “With Black History Month [in October] and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s come at the right time for people to be more aware of the issues,” she said. “The more we can keep the momentum up, the better.

    “There’s still a chasm but I want to see an overspill of BAME riders – we’ve been discovering some phenomenal talent – but I’d like to see that become the norm.”

    Linda Greening, head of inclusivity at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, has joined the BERF group.

    She told H&H it is important to address all issues around minorities.

    “There are so many barriers to getting into equestrianism, and ethnicity definitely shouldn’t be one of them,” she said. “At Hartpury, we recognise we have a low proportion of BAME students across the board, specifically in equine, and are racking our brains on how to address that.”

    Ms Greening said a commitment to working in the community and raising awareness of what the college can offer is one approach, but she believes now is an “exciting time” for equestrianism.

    “It’s an opportunity to reflect as an industry on what’s happening and why, but momentum is building,” she said, adding that being a member of the BERF group has led her to realise the traction the movement has gained.

    “This isn’t an activist movement, it’s passive and peaceful; people wanting to raise awareness and remove barriers to people getting into equestrianism and progressing, across the industry,” she said. “I’m so pleased Sandra has won this award; we recognise the importance of positive role models, but it also helps the rest of the industry recognise that these people exist, and it’s the norm.”

    Jess Powell, a mixed heritage BERF member, doctor and lifelong rider, who team chases and follows hounds on her horse Mojo, told H&H she grew up in rural North Yorkshire, and was “always the only brown person, at school or doing anything”, but her equestrian experiences have been largely positive.

    “There was snobbery at Pony Club from parents about our cheap ponies, but that was the same for everyone!” she said. “I’ve had more surprise that I’m a female doctor than because I’m a brown person riding a horse.”

    Mrs Powell said she believes a big issue is the urban-rural divide, as most rural communities are predominantly white, and there is less access to riding in cities.

    “I think it’s very much a town-country and a cultural thing, more than a colour thing, in my experience,” she said. “When I lived in London, I was more into athletics and rugby, because they were accessible; there aren’t ponies in cities, whereas I grew up with them.

    “I think to be more inclusive, we’ve got to get city kids out playing with ponies, whatever their colour. Someone said to me the other day the industry has had a bit of a beating over diversity, but it’s not all negative news.”