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Diversity in the industry: six months on...has anything really changed?

A damning report released in April of 2023 by British Equestrian revealed that racism, classism and bullying are rife in the equestrian industry. The research study carried out by AKD Solutions found that 24% of those who participated in the project felt racial discrimination adversely affected their ability to fully access and benefit from equestrian activity. While 33% of white respondents agreed that working in an equestrian environment was a viable career option, figures from black, Asian or mixed background were 6%, 10% and 16% respectively. Just 9% of people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds felt that working in the horse world was an option for them.

The four-month research project involved speaking to 844 'ethnically diverse and/or socio-economically underserved participants' to learn about participation, engagement or interest in equestrian activity. While this is a start, it is important to note that other diverse voices were not heard. Diversity isn’t just about race or ethnicity; it includes a mix of gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, languages, cultures, religions, abilities, and viewpoints. It’s about embracing the richness of different experiences and perspectives.

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”

–Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google)

Nine key themes emerged in the report, including bullying and racialised experience, exclusivity in equestrianism, affordability as a barrier to participation and a missing diversity ethos. A lack of trauma informed practice was also highlighted. The report said: “Themes of bullying and racialised experiences emerged strongly among participants currently involved in equestrian activity. Participants stated bullying was commonplace within riding schools and liveries, with many equestrian environments feeling emotionally unsafe for them."

In October of last year, British Equestrian (BEF) announced “six months of change, achievement and progress” in its #Horses4All research project on underrepresented communities’ engagement with equestrianism. The main outcome has been the creation of an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy to act as a blueprint for BEF member bodies or a basis for their own EDI strategies. Yet, it seems there is little concrete change. Young people with lived experience of disadvantage, disability and discrimination are still struggling to find a foothold in the horse world.

As top rider Jordan Allen (who happens to be black and female) was quoted as saying in ELLE Magazine's article Who Gets to be an Equestrian?, “People need to be exposed to stories like mine. That you can do this and not have all the money....Without mentorship, scholarship, and access, getting to the top may not have been possible."

While writing reports and creating strategies is an essential part of change, it can't be ignored that often all this serves to do is create more jobs for privileged people. For there to be concrete change, the BEF and bodies like it need to put their money where their mouth is, creating scholarships that are not just based on merit but that level the playing field and offering grant funding to organisations who are working to ensure that horses truly are for all.

“The path to diversity begins with supporting, mentoring, and sponsoring diverse women and men to become leaders and entrepreneurs.”

–Denise Morrison (Retired CEO and President of Campbell Soup Company)

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