Equality Engagement Group aims to make equestrianism more inclusive

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has spearheaded the formation of the Equality Engagement Group, which saw its first meeting take place on 26 September 2019. The group was set up to help the BEF engage with a wider group of people who are already delivering or involved in equestrianism, to help us provide equal opportunities for all to take part in equestrian sport, and to make what we do more accessible. The group members, who include representatives from a number of organisations, projects and charities, are already involved in equestrianism, are diverse as a group, and regularly interact and engage with diverse participants.

Chaired by Jess Cook, a Non-Executive Director of the BEF and an Equality and Diversity Champion, the group aims to find ways to engage with communities not readily associated with equestrianism so that everyone can enjoy access to horses and riding, thereby helping to improve the diversity of the UK equestrian industry.

Anna Hall, the BEF’s Head of Participation, commented: “I am absolutely delighted to have been able to work with the BEF Board to form this group of interested and engaged individuals, who are all passionate about the power of equestrianism to make a difference to people. They want to help shape the future of equestrianism as an activity for all, and will provide advice to the BEF, the Board and the Council about how to make this happen. This group is intended to bring seldom-heard voices to the fore in what we do.”

A key topic discussed in the first meeting, which was held at the RDA National Training Centre in Warwickshire, was how different groups and stakeholders could collaborate to open up access and inclusivity so that anybody who wants to be involved with horses can be. This could come partly through sharing stories, imagery and role models to inspire a new wave of participants who might currently feel under-represented. 

The group will meet twice a year to share ideas and make suggestions based on their experiences working with the communities the BEF is trying to engage with.

The members of the Equality Engagement group are:

  • Jess Cook is a Non-Executive Director of the BEF, and a BEF Equality and Diversity Champion. She has over 14 years of experience working in disability sport, and now works with Activity Alliance to assist national governing bodies of sport and national disability charities to develop and support a better link between sport, physical activity and disabled people.
  • Suzanna Anslow is the lead safeguarding officer for British Carriagedriving. She is also a competitor, steward, helper and sponsor at horse driving trials, and a volunteer for the RDA. In Suzanna’s professional life, she operates a small management and employment law consultancy firm, and is a published author in the field.
  • Imran Atcha started riding regularly as an adult in 2007 and now runs St James City Farm Riding School, an inner-city riding school founded in 2015 by Imran, his friends and various funders as part of the registered charity The Friendship Café. Run by staff and volunteers, the riding school offers rides and lessons from as little as £2.50 to 50–70 children a week.
  • Paul Fitzgerald is the Equality and Inclusion Lead for the East Midlands Ambulance Service and the East of England Ambulance Service. He has significant experience working with LGBT+ communities, HIV patients, people suffering with mental health, and a range of other groups and cultures who might face discrimination. A keen dressage rider, he has been providing equality and diversity support to the BEF since 2017.
  • Keith Hackett is the volunteer Chair of Park Palace Ponies, a starter riding school in the Toxteth area of Liverpool. Formerly a local politician for Liverpool City Council, Keith describes himself as a community activist, trade unionist, and a social and commercial entrepreneur, and is part of a network of people running commercial social enterprise projects in the city.
  • Naomi Howgate is a co-manager and coach at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, London. She started at the club as a volunteer in 2013, following several years spent working in the charity sector with young people, and began working there full-time in 2017. As well as coaching, she also takes part in trips and events.
  • Natalie O’Rourke is the Proprietor of Park Lane Stables in Teddington, London. Since taking on the centre in 2008, she’s set up a Pony Club group and Park Lane RDA group, which has around 300 members. Natalie works with a diverse group of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and receives referrals from Social Services.
  • Doug Smith has been a volunteer with Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) for 30 years. He is currently National Equine Lead for the RDA and has held a number of voluntary posts, including running the RDA National Championships for 10 years. He has been involved with three World Championships and three Paralympic Games – he was yard manager at the Sydney 2000 Games.
  • Alexandra van Randwyck started riding at the age of 10 and has worked on a variety of yards, from RDA centres to professional event yards. She coaches at her local Pony Clubs and is working towards her BHS Stage 4 teaching qualification. During her time at university, she was part of the student squad that competed at the World University Riding Championships.
  • Freedom Zampaladus is the founder of The Urban Equestrian Academy in Leicester, which helps inner-city people of all ages to enjoy the benefits of riding and caring for horses. He was introduced to the equestrian world as a teenager through his uncle’s racing yard in the Caribbean, before returning to the UK with a mission to improve participant diversity there. 

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