A young Coventry rider who suffered racial abuse has launched a campaign encouraging greater diversity in equestrian sport.
Reece McCook, 18, started riding after seeing Shetland ponies as a child and becoming fascinated. He began riding lessons and now, has ambitions to compete at Badminton Horse Trials.
But on a working pupil placement Reece told how he faced racist insults. At another yard he was refused a key for the tack room because the woman who ran it assumed he was a thief.
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“It was very difficult,” he said. “I had the support of my friends and family but there was nowhere within the industry to go to for support and advice.”
Reece didn’t let the experience defeat his ambitions, and after a conversation with his mum decided to launch Ride Out Racism, a campaign seeking to tackle discrimination within equestrianism and encourage people from diverse backgrounds to get involved in the sport.
And the campaign is already gaining national and international recognition. After featuring in a number of equine publications, Reece said he has been overwhelmed with support.
What is Ride Out Racism all about?
Reece is making and selling rosettes featuring the Ride Out Racism logo, and demand is huge, with 200 being sold in just a month.
He is expanding the campaign, with a website soon to launch and other merchandise such as pin badges, t shirts and face masks currently being designed.
Long term he is looking to create a call line so that people facing discrimination in the industry can get professional and legal advice on what to do. And he hopes to start his own inner city riding school in Coventry to offer opportunities for urban youngsters to get into the sport.
“Horses don’t judge you”
Reece grew up listening to his nan’s stories of riding, although she gave up when she had children.
“We were staying at my aunt’s when I was young and on the way to the shops we saw two Shetland ponies. I just fell in love,” he said.
Back home in Coventry he started going for riding lessons, eventually working up to a Level 2 diploma in horse care management and getting two horses of his own, Rose and Minstrel.
He and Minstrel are now in training for the grassroots competition at Badminton.
“My nan passed away and it’s important to me to pursue this and remember her,” he said.
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“It is just brilliant being around horses – they don’t judge you, so why should we?
“When I’m riding, the only thing I’m thinking about is my horse. You can forget your stresses. It’s really therapeutic and good for your mental health.”
And he has some advice for youngsters from all backgrounds who want to get into the sport.
“The first thing is to find a riding school. You need a lot of space, which is why they are often out in the country – the one I go to is a 25 minute drive. That’s why I want to bring one to inner city Coventry.
“But my main advice is don’t follow other people. Be different and follow your dream.”