Creating an industry in which everyone is welcome *H&H Plus*

  • Speakers from across the industry discussed the efforts being made to improve diversity and inclusion in equestrianism, at the 2021 National Equine Forum. H&H finds out what has been done — and what is to come

    EFFORTS are being made across the equestrian sector to make it one in which “everyone can belong and thrive”.

    Diversity and inclusion within equestrianism was the subject of debate at the virtual National Equine Forum on 4 March. Speakers from across the industry looked at work that is already being carried out – and what still needs to be done.

    Jess Cook, chairman of British Equestrian’s (BEF) equality engagement group (EEG), explained that equality, diversity and inclusion is “making sure no one feels left out or discriminated  against”, owing to factors including age, ethnicity, gender, disability or other factors.

    She said the EEG meets quarterly at minimum, its members representing disability, young people, women and girls, ethnically diverse communities, LGBTQ and low socio-economic groups. Members have helped the BEF form an action plan, shared photos to increase the image bank, shared stories to help develop case studies and given advice on the BEF’s future priorities. The focus will be on ethnically diverse communities.

    “If we fail to address existing inequalities or engage more people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, it will only lead to greater challenges in levels of engagement in equestrianism,” she said.

    The BEF is developing an action plan with Sporting Equals, which promotes ethnic diversity in sport, to address the issue,

    looking at the workforce, training and resources, and perception of equestrianism in diverse communities.

    “We wanted young people to see that being part of equestrianism is for them,” Ms Cook said,

    Sandra Murphy, director of nutrition company Equidiet, and vet Navaratnam Partheeban spoke about the BAME Equine and Rural Activities Focus Group (BERF) of which they are founder and committee member respectively.

    Ms Murphy spoke of her intention to open a centre of equestrian excellence for riders from ethnically diverse communities, to ensure they have appropriate opportunities for progression.

    “If we work together, this could be a reality for the BAME community,” she said. “We are the change.”

    She added: “It’s vital, if we want a sector that welcomes people from all walks of life, we must look up, speak up and challenge ourselves, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation gets.

    “We’re very lucky to live and work with horses, so it’s up to us to encourage others to join us and feel they belong too, and can be themselves.”

    Rose Grissell, head of diversity and inclusion at the British Horseracing Authority, discussed how “racing is everyone’s sport”, adding that this is a “fantastic opportunity” to increase involvement in the industry.

    She spoke of efforts to ensure everyone can feel welcome at the races, and working and participating in the industry, such as talent pathways for young people from diverse communities, and planned research into the barriers to attending racing and participation.

    Imran Atcha, of the St James City Farm & Riding School, spoke of his work, bringing access to horses to those who would not otherwise have had that chance.

    “We’re finding our way still, as it’s difficult to keep horses in the city but it’s achievable,” he said. “Our kids could be as good as anyone if we give them a chance, and that’s what we’re all about.”

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