Academy secures future funding

The Riding A Dream Academy which supports young riders aged 14-18 from diverse ethnic backgrounds, under-represented communities and urban equestrian centres has been awarded three years’ seed funding by the Racing Foundation to expand its programmes following a hugely successful pilot year.

The Academy currently runs the year-long Khadijah Mellah Scholarship for talented riders and a rider-based Residential Week which acts as an introduction to British horse racing. Moving forward, it will also add a non-rider Residential Week to cater for the large numbers of young people who have applied to the Academy but lacked access to horses and sufficient riding experience, and Regional Weeks to take the Academy out to local communities. All programmes will be delivered by the hugely talented team at the British Racing School.

Rob Hezel, Chief Executive of the Racing Foundation said, “The Racing Foundation would like to congratulate Naomi Lawson and Oli Bell, two individuals with a genuine desire to drive change in the racing industry, on launching the next stage of the Riding a Dream Academy. We are delighted to fund the Academy as it builds on the success of its pilot year and delivers tangible, life-enhancing opportunities for young people passionate about racing.”

Co-founder Naomi Lawson, who will move from Great British Racing to lead the Academy said, “Being able to provide amazing opportunities to talented riders and young people with an interest in horse racing from a wide range of communities is at the heart of the Academy and we are excited to be able to expand our programmes and reach many more individuals thanks to the Racing Foundation’s funding. The pilot has demonstrated the impact that the Academy can have in making racing more diverse and inclusive with our students already working in the industry, applying for the Foundation course and taking up other opportunities within the sport.”

ITV Racing’s Oli Bell, co-founder of the Academy said, “We are incredibly grateful to the Racing Foundation for their enduring support of the Riding A Dream Academy and for sharing our vision of a more diverse and inclusive sport. The Foundation have been with us from the start when they helped to fund the original Riding A Dream documentary which followed Khadijah Mellah’s incredible story, through to our pilot year. For us to be in the position to support many other young people from diverse and under-represented backgrounds through their funding is a fitting legacy to all that Khadijah achieved and will help racing identify and support diverse talent from across the country.”

The Academy was set up as a legacy to the achievements of Khadijah Mellah who became the first British Muslim woman to win a horse race in the UK when landing the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood in 2019 and aims to increase diversity and inclusion in British horse racing.

To date, 60% of the Academy’s applicants have been from a diverse ethnic background, with 73% of students in the pilot year coming from a diverse ethnic background. This compares to just 2% of jockeys from a diverse ethnic background and between 3-5% of individuals who currently go on the industry’s entry level Foundation Course.

Academy secures future funding