Bullying is “common-place” in areas of British equestrianism and racialised experiences “emerged strongly”, a hard-hitting report commissioned by the sport’s national governing body has revealed.
British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre admitted that some of the 89-page report was “a tough read” and he has vowed to see “a vibrant equestrian community free from discrimination”.
The research study carried out by AKD Solutions found that 24 per cent of those who participated in the project felt that racial discrimination adversely affected their ability to fully access and benefit from equestrian activity.
“At present, the demand for equine activity in diverse communities often goes unmet and many equestrians from diverse backgrounds struggle to find their place within the industry,” AKD said.
This, though, is reflective across the equestrian industry for all participants with a supply and demand issue for riding schools, with more than 70 per cent having a new customer waiting list.
Other areas highlighted include the sport’s perceived “elitist and classist” nature, a lack of awareness surrounding available riding opportunities and location of equestrian facilities, plus prohibitive costs.
The four-month research project involved speaking to 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 bullying and racialised experience, exclusivity in equestrianism, affordability as a barrier to participation and a missing diversity ethos.
The report said: “Themes of bullying and racialised experiences emerged strongly among participants currently involved in equestrian activity.
“In interviews, black participants recalled a number of instances where bullying within riding schools and liveries was racialised and interviewees spoke of moving liveries due to this, even when incurring significant additional cost.
“For one riding centre, the concern for the welfare of their young people in some equestrian environments was so substantial, they took to sending a hijab-wearing Muslim staff member out in advance to check that the spaces were emotionally safe, welcoming and inclusive enough for their young people to visit, which was measured against the facility’s treatment of the staff member.
“Examples of seemingly-innocuous experiences that contribute to emotionally-unsafe environments included names of horses.
“During an experience day at a riding centre, some participants were told the names of the horses, with one name evoking strong associations with an old practice of enslaved black men forced to fight for the amusement of slave masters.
“Members of the group attending were outraged at this and felt the riding school was ‘ignorant’ and ‘lacking awareness’ of the potential meaning for this group and thus ill-equipped to support and foster an inclusive environment.
“Demand and poor experience contribute to the lack of ethnic and socio-economic diversity. British Equestrian and other industry bodies must act intentionally to change the industry landscape.”
And the governing body has responded proactively, listing detailed short, medium and long-term objectives to underpin a suitable strategy.
British Equestrian say work going forward will include embodying change, listening, learning and evolving, continually reviewing areas for improvement, tracking progress and “staying resilient” in the quest for “lasting change”.
Among 11 recommendations made by AKD to British Equestrian are a universal commitment to anti-racist and anti-classist equestrian environments, an open door complaints and grievance practices, investing in urban equestrian centres and keeping records of diversity indicators.
AKD added: “British Equestrian and member bodies must address issues of inclusivity, affordable access, diverse representation, funding and operational support for equestrian centres in ways that embed anti-racist, racial equity and anti-classist values.
“The commonality and shared views of respondents, regardless of race or financial means, indicates the need for a cultural change within the equestrian industry.”
Eyre added: “The report made for tough reading in places, but overall, there were some very positive messages around the value, benefits and latent demand of equestrian.
“We can now turn these into meaningful change and use as part of our wider commitment around social impact across the equestrian industry. We must now seize this chance fully to make a real difference.”