Riding A Dream academy launched to support talented riders from under-represented communities

Features | 20th May 2021

A new Academy to support talented riders from under-represented communities to get into racing has been launched today.

The Riding A Dream Academy, named after the documentary that followed Khadijah Mellah on her journey to becoming the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race, will welcome its first intake this summer.

In its pilot year it will run two programmes for those aged 14-18. The Khadijah Mellah Scholarship and a residential week, both delivered by the British Racing School in Newmarket.

The Jockey Club, which stages many of British Racing’s biggest events will fund one Scholarship place for a rider from St James’s City Farm in Gloucester, a club that they have supported over a number of years.

Khadijah Mellah, who made history when winning the Magnolia Cup in 2019 and who learned to ride at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton said, “Racing changed my life forever and I hope that by getting involved in the Riding A Dream Academy it will change other young people’s lives too.”

“If you come from my background it can be difficult to imagine yourself in racing. So I hope the Academy will give other young people the confidence that racing is a sport that you can get involved in, where you will be supported and where you can achieve your dreams and anything you set your mind to.”

Oli Bell, the ITV presenter who has helped to develop the Academy said, “We are incredibly grateful to the Racing Foundation for funding The Riding A Dream Academy which will enable lots of young people who wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to experience the thrill of horse racing.”

“It will hopefully provide a legacy to Khadijah’s achievements when she showed that the impossible can be possible and it is something that I am hugely proud to be a part of. I look forward to meeting the racing stars of the future who will be a part of this terrific new initiative.”

The Khadijah Mellah Scholarship is a year-long programme for talented riders aged 14-18 from underrepresented communities which, in its first year, will welcome eight riders. Applications for the programe are now open on the Riding A Dream academy website. The closing date is 14th June.

The Scholarship will see the students spend a week at the British Racing School to hone their riding skills followed by 11 monthly weekend sessions at the school where they will be paired with a mentor.

The riders will have the chance to gain work experience at a top racehorse trainer’s yard, participate in further pony races and gain a 1st4Sport Level 1 qualification in the horseracing industry.

Its sister programme, the Residential Week will act as an introduction to the racing industry for less experienced riders and is likewise aimed at those from underrepresented groups and communities.

Khadijah’s success in the Magnolia Cup came aboard Haverland, trained by Charlie Fellowes who will be one of the trainers to provide work experience to those on the Scholarship programme.

Charlie Fellowes and Khadijah Mellah
Khadijah Mellah with trainer Charlie Fellowes and jockey coach Nick Bentley at Goodwood

He said, “Lots of trainers will be more than open to supporting this brilliant initiative. Khadijah’s story and success was so powerful and creating a lasting legacy that helps other young people from underrepresented backgrounds get into racing is something that we all see the value in. My team and I can’t wait to get involved.”