Breaking New Ground: Inclusion and Diversity in Equestrian Sports

Today, diversity and inclusion are words on the lips of many. But more importantly, they are concepts making a push into arenas previously uncharted. One of those arenas happens to be that of Equestrian Sports, with Tegan Vincent-Cooke, Britain's first international black para-rider, leading the charge. In this article, we embark on an examination of Tegan's journey and aspirations, in her quest to change the face of equestrian sports.

From Physio Recommendation to Para-Rider Champion

Tegan's love for horses, much like her journey, had a unique beginning, starting at age four as a recommendation from her physiotherapist. Her commitment and focus turned this prescription into a passion, making her a four-time champion at the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

But, like most worthwhile quests, her journey was not bereft of hurdles.

Challenges Stand in the Way of Diversity

Despite the recent strides in the world of equestrian sports, Tegan is vocal about the persistent need for greater inclusion and diversity. One particular area she highlights is in the realm of traditional competition attire. These uniforms, whilst steeped in time-honoured tradition, often fail to accommodate afro hair or headscarves, creating an additional hurdle for many other minority riders.

Georgina Urwin, an operator of Summerfield Stables, echoes these sentiments. She cites a recent incident that negatively impacted British Equestrian's "Horses for All" strategy, which aims to make equestrian sports accessible to more diverse groups. The resulting scandal served as a poignant reminder of the distance yet to be covered in the journey towards a truly inclusive environment.

Minority Groups Still Face Barriers

The experiences of Tegan aren't stand-alone. Various research points to a multitude of barriers preventing ethnic minorities from fully engaging with equestrian pursuits. From high entry costs and limited access to necessary resources to deeply ingrained cultural differences and persistent discrimination, the path ahead remains steep.

Efforts to Improve Diversity in Equestrian Sports

Acknowledging these challenges is brought to the forefront, with campaigns like "Horses for All", and organizations like Black Equestrian Project and the National Association of Riding for the Disabled. Primarily, they aim to bridge the gap, providing opportunities and support for underrepresented groups within the industry.

Furthermore, a greater focus is needed on understanding the cultural practices that impact participation in equestrian sports. For instance, during the holy month of Ramadan, the unique challenges posed by fasting during long competitions are faced by Muslim equestrians. There is a clear necessity for more research to accommodate these and other cultural sensitivities within the equestrian community.

A Journey of Many More Steps

Whilst already a notable player in the equestrian field as Britain's first black para-rider, Tegan's journey is far from over. Her commitment to breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity within the equestrian community serves as a stark reminder - there is still work to be done to ensure a truly diverse and inclusive space for all riders.

In conclusion, Tegan Vincent-Cooke's story emphasises the importance and need for inclusivity and diversity in equestrian sports. Addressing the challenges faced by minority groups within the industry requires collective and focused efforts, from more inclusive uniforms and improved access to resources, to increased cultural sensitivity. Only then can we create a truly welcoming and inclusive atmosphere in equestrian sports for all who wish to participate.

Source: Horse & Hound