‘Incredibly proud’: UK’s first Riding A Dream Academy graduating students – Horse Racing News

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Nine students from Riding A Dream Academy, which was set up after Khadijah Mellah became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race, have become the first graduates of its prestigious scholarship scheme.

Nine students from Riding A Dream Academy, which was set up after Khadijah Mellah became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race, have become the first graduates of its prestigious scholarship scheme.

The Khadijah Mellah Scholarship is the Academy’s flagship program, which was created to help other young people between the ages of 14 and 18 from diverse and underrepresented communities to participate in the race and increase diversity and inclusion in sport. It is kindly funded by the Racing Foundation, with additional support from The Jockey Club and Champion Equestrian.

Over the year the students, all aged between 14 and 18 and hailing from across the UK, learned to ride racehorses under the expert tutelage of instructors at the British Racing School (BRS) in Newmarket where the Academy and its program is run. The course began with a residential week at BRS in August 2021 and students have returned for a weekend every month since to continue their studies.

“I am incredibly proud and humbled by all the students have achieved this year,” said Khadijah Mellah, on whose behalf the scholarship is administered and who inspired Riding A Dream Academy. “To see them arrive in August of last year after sitting on riding school ponies, now riding galloping racehorses here is simply breathtaking. As a group and individually, I am so impressed with the talent, hard work and commitment they put in and can’t wait to see where their racing careers take them next None of this would have been possible without the support of the Racing Foundation and amazing instructors at the British Racing School – I’m so grateful to everyone who made the Academy possible.

Sienna, 15 from London, was one of the students to graduate on Saturday. She said: “Being part of Riding A Dream Academy meant a lot to me. It was a lifelong dream to be a jockey and the Academy made that dream come true. The Academy has changed my life and I’m so grateful to have had so many people there and at the British Racing School who believed in me and made it all possible.

The Academy acts as a gateway to horse racing with one of its students, O’Shane, 17, from the Ebony Horse Club in London, already working in the sport at a race yard in Newmarket.

A third student, Aamilah, 16, from Gloucester, is set to join the Sport Basics Course which is the next step for youngsters looking to kick-start their careers in sport and become a jockey. She said: “I’m so lucky to be part of the first group of Riding A Dream Academy – it was such an honor and an amazing experience. It has helped me so much in my riding journey and I am now on my way to becoming a jump jockey and my dream of winning the Grand National!

The Academy was established by ITV Racing’s Naomi Lawson and Oli Bell as a legacy of the achievements of Khadijah Mellah who became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race when the Magnolia Cup landed at Goodwood in 2019 and aims to increase diversity and inclusion in British horse racing.

To date, 60% of Academy applicants are from a diverse ethnic background, with 73% of pilot year students being from a diverse ethnic background. This compares to only 2% of jockeys of diverse ethnic backgrounds and between 3-5% of people who currently take the basic industry course.

It currently runs two programs – the Khadijah Mellah Fellowship and a residential week which serves as an introduction to the sport. Later in 2022, it will expand its programs, through the Racing Foundation, to include a residential week for non-racers and regional community weeks.

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Clyde P. Johnson