Young black equestrian aims to “Ride out racism” in horse sport

Reece McCook with his horse, Rose.
Reece McCook with his horse, Rose.

My name is Reece. I’m 18 and my passion is equestrianism. Picture me riding and jumping my beloved bay mare Rose, helping the younger riders at the yard with their horsemanship skills and volunteering with a local equestrian charity.

Now I’ll tell you I’m black and from inner-city Coventry. Did the picture you have in your mind match my reality? Probably not but that’s not your fault as I’m not your stereotypical equestrian participant. But I’m making it my mission to facilitate change, tackle discrimination, encourage acceptance and breakdown barriers in my equestrian community.

I’ve recently launched a campaign to “Ride out racism” and have been overwhelmed with the response already. I’ve experienced and been subjected to racism in my equine education and employment but I’ve also had a great deal of support and encouragement and I want to use what I’ve experienced to bring riding to more young people like me.

Horses are amazing animals – they don’t judge who’s riding them, they’re incredibly tolerant and if you treat them with respect, they’ll love you back. And that should reflect equestrianism as a whole but sadly, at present, it’s not the case. There is work going on at the top to make improvements, British Equestrian and equestrian bodies are driving for their equality standard for sport but it’s on the ground where we need to work harder.

Reece McCook and Rose in action.

Young people from urban environments, particularly those from minority ethnic groups, simply just don’t feel riding is a sport that’s for them. Cost, access to facilities and stereotypes are barriers. I was ashamed to tell my non-equestrian friends that I rode for fear of what they’d think about me but in reality, they were pretty cool about it and really intrigued. I want to make sure that none of these are barriers to taking part in future.

As part of my campaign, there are “Ride out racism” rosettes and pin badges for all riders to proudly display, post pictures of them riding with on social media and show that they believe in an equal and diverse equestrian world. There’s a small profit from each sale which will be donated to organisations that are already doing some amazing work with young people from ethnic minorities and underprivileged backgrounds.

Reece McCook has created the “Ride out Racism” movement.

“Ride out racism” is just the first step for me, an initiative to raise awareness of inequality in the equestrian world, but I’d like to develop it into something where we can actually make a difference and help anyone experience riding and horses. Getting new riders involved regardless of race, religion or background can only be beneficial for everyone. I need help to spread my message and challenge perceptions so we can effect change. If the campaign means all those in the equestrian world take a look at their own actions and behaviours and think how we can be more accepting and encouraging to all.

On a horse, we’re all equal. There is no race, there is no gender, there is no class. But having the opportunity to get on a horse is beyond the reach of so many and it needn’t be.

So, I’m asking everyone to support “Ride out racism” as a start toward building a more diverse equestrian world where black faces are normal, riding in hijab is standard and acceptance is automatic.

6 thoughts on “Young black equestrian aims to “Ride out racism” in horse sport

  • June 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Every young person should have a dream and every young person should have the opportunity to live their dream.
    Good luck Mr McCook

  • June 21, 2020 at 11:37 am

    What a wonderful young man. We are ALL ONE and that is how I was brought up.

  • June 21, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    Reece, first of all, you look a very tidy rider over that fence. And that should be the only thing in any way remarkable about you as a rider. For decades (yeah, I’m old!) I’ve wondered where all the brown faces are in equestrian publications. Being white, I couldn’t see what the barriers were to people of colour riding except finances, and I thought it a damned shame that people of any skin who wanted to ride couldn’t because they didn’t have the money to do so. But for anybody to be actively unwelcome (and even a raised eyebrow when a brown face turns up asking for riding lessons can be enough to turn a potential rider away – it doesn’t take much!) on a yard for no reason other than their skin colour is a miserable shame on the entire horse industry, and it’s beyond time it was reversed.
    I wish your campaign every possible success.

  • June 21, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you Reece for highlighting this issue. The equestrian industry, in my view, operates within a structure designed to keep the BAME community from participating and reeping the benefits of riding, working and competing with these fantastic animals. A change is definately overdue. My family are keen to support Ride out Racism, got our rosettes! We also support the Urban Equestrian Academy and love to see and be part of the changes happening. This industry needs positive role models to assist in promoting diversity to break down barriers. Wishing you every success. Kind Regards. Olly

  • June 22, 2020 at 1:45 am

    Ah I guess it had to happen sooner or later – even the horse industry isn’t safe from identity politics being injected into it nowadays I guess. If there is any one thing horse people legitimately never cared about for as long as I remember, it would be someone’s race. The only ‘discrimination’ come from the crazies who judge others on the colour of their saddlepad.

    Being afraid to tell non-equestrian friends that one rides is on you, is a personal insecurity that just about every young guy who lives in a city goes through – if you want to talk about stereotypes – but that’s nothing to do with the industry and is fixed by personal growth. Anyway to re-iterate, race has nothing to do with horses, the grass is green, sky is blue and you can insert any other obvious fact in here. Pushing race into the industry is going to have the opposite effect. Can we not enjoy this hobby, lifestyle or livelihood (whichever it is) without shoving politics into it?

    • June 22, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      Where do I start? First of all, Pavel, riding is a sport. It’s a large group of sports that all have the horse in common, and around which a series of service industries – the production and sale of equestrian equipment, the growing and manufacture and sale of horse feeds, riding schools, livery yards etc. – have grown. It’s not a “lifestyle”, it’s not a “hobby”, it’s a sport.
      Secondly, if it were as open to people of colour as it is to we pink skinned people, you’d expect to see brown faces in equestrian publications in proportion to their percentage of the wider community. You don’t. And the further up the ranks of most horse sports you go, the fewer brown people you see. Don’t believe me? Draw up a list of the top twenty world wide in each of the three Olympic sports, google their pictures, and apart from a tiny handful of Chinese, Japanese and possibly Malaysian competitors, it’s a sea of pink faces. Why is that?
      It’s not that people of colour don’t want to ride. And while in the United States browner people are statistically less able to command a high salary, all other things (talent and willingness to work included) being equal, financial inequity is by no means the only apparent barrier to equestrian participation non-pink people face.
      You, personally, might be impervious to subtle social threats, to the micro-aggressions that make the difference between feeling you have permission to go through a door or not, but others are not so thick-skinned. The barrier might be as simple and apparently innocuous as a momentary raised eyebrow (unnoticed by the person raising it) when a dark-skinned child enters a riding school to ask for lessons. It might be that historically browner people tend to live in cities rather than in the countryside because ownership of agricultural land has been all white. it might even be the unspoken but powerful assumption that riding is “posh” and “our family don’t do that”, which cripples ambition in a wide variety of people for a host of reasons, all of them bad.
      This campaign is not about identity politics but about simple fairness. And it’s important to every rider because every unfairness we perpetrate removes societal permission for our sport. The perception of exclusivity is a very bad thing for our sport. We need people to feel good about what we do.


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