As some of you may know it is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination . This inspired me to write this blog about diversity in the equestrian world.
When I tell people I enjoy going horse riding some are very surprised not just by the fact I ride and have a disability but also because of the colour of my skin. People sometimes tell me “ I didn’t realise people of your ethnicity took part in this sport”.
They get even more confused when they see me with my family. I am Indian but at 3 months old I was adopted by a English couple who lived in India. They then had a biological daughter so people get confused when I say “and this is my younger sister”. Over the years I’ve had people stare at me when I’m out with my family in public. Sometimes I forget that I’m a different ethnicity from my family to me it’s my normal!
The equestrian world is really lacking in diversity . I think a big aspect of why this is the cause is because of how low the awareness in this sport. People in the past have said and made comments that they thought this sport is not a sport for some like me which really isn’t the case.
We need more role models in the sport. We need someone who is relatable to people. If people see someone from the same background or similar they feel they can relate to that person. To help show how this sport isn’t just for one type of person we need to change perceptions.
I believe Riding for the Disabled challenges perceptions constantly because when I talk to people about the fact I ride with the RDA many people haven’t actually heard of this amazing charity. So I love telling them how special, valuable and life changing it is!
When people see someone like me. They can see that I can ride. I want to help encourage others to give this sport a try despite society’s labels and their are others like me taking part in the sport. This helps to break down the barriers this sport has.
One person breaking down these barriers now is Reece McCook, founder of online campaign Ride Out Racism.
Everyone should feel that it is possible for them to join and achieve great things in this sport. We need to inspire each other to join and participate in this sport and in our community. You never know who could be the top riders of our future let’s break down these barriers together, this sport is for everyone!
Bryony started with the South Bucks branch of Riding for the Disabled (RDA) from the age of 8. As her Dad, I’ve got a lot of pleasure seeing how they have helped her overcome some of her problems whilst riding.
But before we get into that, I must confess that sometime in the last century I was also a keen horse rider: my mum had a horse called Blaze and, given her back problems, I became Blaze’s main rider for a few years. I mucked him out (sometimes), I prepared him for shows and won a few rosettes at the local Pony Club Events.
But while the few photos I have are of show events, my memories are quite different. I remember the togetherness of riding him over a round of small jumps with no saddle and no bridle (although I don’t remember how!). And my best memories are of sitting on his back revising for my “O” levels while he grazed on the grass in our small paddock. The type of togetherness that can bind man and animal, or, in this case, boy and horse. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school and Blaze was probably my best friend that summer.
So I can easily understand how the RDA has helped Bryony, how it continues to help, and hopefully help in the future. Her 45 minutes every Saturday morning are one of the top highlights of the week as she becomes a very different person. She becomes much more confident and self-assured, almost literally discarding her other issues as she gets on her horse at mid-day on Saturday. Her horse, whether it be Mabel or Billy, senses that Bryony is in charge. The horse may be led (usually by Hazel), but Bryony is definitely the boss. Her concentration is evident to us, her family, but we see something others don’t. We see that the issues and concerns that are very visible for most of the week are simply not there once she is riding. No-one is threatening her, or making fun of her, and that is clear from her appearance and confidence on the horse. I can’t remember when we last saw her have a fit on the horse, whilst she continues to have such episodes at home when she is not on a horse. Maybe it is the girl/horse relationship, maybe it is the nurturing and care of RDA staff, or more likely it is both of these. As Bryony puts it: the RDA is a second caring family to her and that’s an amazing thing to have when one is six foot up in the air on a very strong four-legged animal!
Bryony started this blog last year and we both hope that while it helps her, it can also help its readers, and can help others discover the pleasures – and very real benefits – provided by the RDA.