Bullying and racialized experiences surface in report on British horsemanship

British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre admitted that part of the 89-page report was “tough reading” and vowed to see “a vibrant equestrian community free from discrimination”.

The research study conducted by AKD Solutions found that 24 percent of those who participated in the project felt that racial discrimination negatively affected their ability to access and fully benefit from equestrian activity.

Ballaghmor class ridden by Oliver Townend
British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre admitted that part of the 89-page report was “a difficult read” (Steve Parsons/PA)

And while 33 percent of white respondents agreed that working in an equestrian setting was a viable career option, the black, Asian, or mixed-origin numbers were just 6 percent, 10 percent, and 6 percent. 16 percent, respectively.

“Today, the demand for equine activity in diverse communities is often unmet and many riders from diverse backgrounds are struggling to find their place within the industry,” AKD said.

However, this is mirrored across the equestrian industry for all comers with a supply and demand problem for riding schools, with more than 70 per cent having a new client waiting list.

Other areas highlighted include the perceived “elitist and classist” nature of the sport, the lack of awareness about available horseback riding opportunities and the location of equestrian facilities, as well as the prohibitive costs.

The four-month research project involved speaking with 800 Black, Asian, and other ethnically diverse people to learn about participation, engagement, or interest in equestrian activity.

Nine key themes emerged in the report, including the bullying and racialized experience, exclusivity in riding, affordability as a barrier to participation, and the lack of diversity ethics.

The report stated: “Issues of bullying and racialized experiences came up strongly among participants currently involved in equestrian activity.

A general view of the horses of horse charmer Jean-Francois Pignon
British Equestrian has responded proactively, listing detailed short, medium and long-term goals to underpin an appropriate strategy (Steve Parsons/PA)

“Participants said bullying was commonplace within riding schools and liveries, and many equestrian environments felt emotionally unsafe for them.

“In interviews, black participants recalled a number of cases where bullying within riding schools and liveries were racialized and interviewees spoke of changing liveries because of this, even when significant additional cost is incurred. .

“For a riding center, concern for the well-being of their youngsters in some equestrian settings was so important that they decided to send a hijab-wearing Muslim staff member ahead of time to verify that the spaces were emotionally safe, welcoming and inclusive. for their young people to visit, measured against the facility’s treatment of the staff member.

“Examples of seemingly innocuous experiences that contribute to emotionally insecure environments include horse names.

“During a day of riding center experience, some participants were told the names of the horses, and one name evoked strong associations with an ancient practice of enslaved black men forced to fight for the amusement of slave masters.

“Members of the group who attended were outraged by this and felt that the riding school was ‘ignorant’ and ‘lack of awareness’ of the potential significance for this group and therefore ill-equipped to support and foster an inclusive environment.

“Demand and little experience contribute to the lack of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. British Equestrian and other industry bodies must act intentionally to change the landscape of the industry.”

An overview of the Barbury International Equestrian Trials
Nine key themes emerged in the report, including bullying and the racialized experience, exclusivity in riding, affordability as a barrier to participation and the unethics of diversity (Steve Parsons/PA)

The report was commissioned by British Equestrian and its 18 member bodies including the three Olympic disciplines of eventing, dressage and jumping, the British Horse Society, the Pony Club, the Disabled Riding Association and the British Grooms Association.

And the governing body has responded proactively, listing detailed short-, medium-, and long-term goals to underpin an appropriate strategy.

British Equestrian says work going forward will include embodying change, listening, learning and evolving, continually reviewing areas for improvement, tracking progress and “staying resilient” in pursuit of “lasting change”.

Among the 11 recommendations made by the AKD to British Equestrian are a universal commitment to anti-racist and anti-class equestrian environments, open door grievance and grievance practices, investing in urban equestrian centers and keeping records of diversity indicators.

AKD added: “British Equestrian and member bodies must address issues of inclusion, affordable access, diverse representation, funding and operational support for equestrian centers in ways that incorporate anti-racist, racial equity and anti-class values.

“The similarity and shared opinions of respondents, regardless of race or economic means, indicate a need for cultural change within the equestrian industry.”

British Equestrian said it had started work on a diversity and inclusion action plan that would drive internal change, while a broader strategy around culture, education and empowerment would be developed.

Eyre added: “The report was a difficult read in places, but overall, there were some very positive messages about the value, benefits and latent demand for horse riding.

“Now we can turn them into meaningful changes and uses as part of our broader commitment to social impact in the equestrian industry. Now we must fully seize this opportunity to make a real difference.”


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