The founder of the equestrian movement Ride Out Racism has joined forces with an international foundation to create a new campaign to increase diversity and inclusion throughout the equestrian industry.
British social campaigner and black equestrian Reece McCook has teamed up with DHD Foundation founders, husband-and-wife team Daisy Honeybunn and Pravin Mukhi, to create #IamPartoftheChange, a social campaign which launched this week and already has the support of many leading professional riders.
McCook says he has often been the only person of colour in the equestrian establishments he has been in. “I started out by volunteering at my local riding school in Coventry, in return for rides, and was so excited when I eventually worked my way to achieving a working pupil placement with a top event rider, which was an exciting opportunity.
“Over the years I have experienced a lot of discrimination, including being judged as a stereotype, and at times I’ve received actual verbal abuse. It was disheartening and I lost my confidence – my dreams were shattered and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to work in the industry. But with the support of friends and family, I set up Ride Out Racism, in order to lower barriers and make the sport more accessible and diverse on every level,” McCook said.
He met Hickstead Director Daisy Honeybunn after he was nominated to appear on her popular Horse & Country TV series, Daisy Dines With, through his role as an ambassador of The Urban Equestrian Academy.
“Reece is a very determined and impressive young man, and he is doing such important work within our sport and industry,” Honeybunn says.
“We have become great friends, and we wanted to work on a campaign together, that could actually spark real effective change. We want to build a more diverse equestrian world, where seeing faces of every colour, and people from every sphere of life is the norm, and where acceptance is automatic.
“Many people and organisations are of course already working extraordinarily hard within the industry towards this goal, but there is still a long way to go. We wanted our campaign not only to show people the projects we are working on, but also to create a platform for others to share their own work and ideas.”
The campaign launch projects include giving riding lessons to young people from disadvantaged communities, and providing funding for McCook to study on the British Horse Society’s (BHS) renowned BHS Coach In Complete Horsemanship programme. There is also an ongoing project with Brixton’s famous Ebony Horse Club, helping source experts for their lockdown online talks programme, as well as an interesting collaboration with a leading Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) training consultancy. The campaign will provide EDI training grants for equestrian consumer brands, as well as specially created online resources.
The campaign is encouraging equestrians to join in by posting their own video, and using the hashtag #IamPartoftheChange to spotlight existing projects, big or small, that are helping promote diversity and inclusion in the equestrian world.
Rio 2016 Olympic showjumping gold medallist Nick Skelton, and a host of riders across the major disciplines including Carl Hester, Laura Tomlinson, Laura Collett, William Whitaker, Shane Breen, Laura Kraut, Paralympic medallist Natasha Baker and equestrian personality Esme Higgs, all appeared in the campaign’s launch video.