At British Equestrian, we're fully committed to the principle of equality of opportunity, and aim to ensure that no individual receives more or less favourable treatment on the grounds of age, sex, gender, disability, race, parental or marital status, pregnancy, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. This includes all those involved in different capacities across the industry – participants, employees, coaches, consultants, owners, officials, volunteers and spectators.
On 8 June 2022, we annouced a united pledge with our member bodies to make a difference.
We want to make equestrianism, delivered by us and by our Member Bodies, an activity that's open to anyone who wishes to be involved, in whatever capacity and at whatever level they desire, and to actively encourage a more diverse range of participants and staff. We are committed to equality and diversity, and are on the path to achieving the Advanced Equality Standard.
We already meet the requirement of having at least 30% of each gender on our Board and have done for some time, and we will continue to strive towards gender balance. We're committed to increasing the diversity of the Board to more fully reflect those involved in our sport, and in time the wider population, because we know diverse boards make better decisions.
In 2022, we embarked on a research project to better undertand underrepesented communities and their engagement with equestrian activities and sport. Under the banner of 'Horses for All' we spent ten months working with AKD Solutions gathering data, insight and lived experiences to produce a report which we then delivered a response document which aknowleged we were strong in some areas but needed to make improvments in others to make our industry truly inclusive and equal. Our commitmemts were laid out over the short, medium and long term and progress continues to be made.
In November 2023, we proudly launched our equality and inclusion strategy, retaining the title 'Horses for All' as this is our ultimate aim. This ambitious document was put togehter with a federation-wide working group with representatives from the industry and leading expertise so we have a representative strategy which provides the vision, mission and objectives which we, and our member bodies, will then use to develop action plans.
What we are doing
We implement our commitments around equality and diversity through an Equal Opportunities and Equality Policy. Following the publishing of our Horses for All strategy, we're currently reviewing this document and we'll published an updated version very soon.
We are currently working on an updated version of our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan which will detail how we'll work to bring the vision and mission outlined in our diversity and inclusion strategy to life and drive the change in culture to acheive our aims. As soon as our 'roadmap' is ready, we'll share it here.
Formation of a group with members from the equestrian world who are representative of or delivering to diverse communities. The group's aim is to improve equality and accessibility within equestrian sport, meaning that anybody who wishes to participate has the ability to do so.
Equestrian sport is one that people can be involved in irrespective of age. Our Member Bodies have individual participants from the ages of under 5 to over 100. We oversee a number of programmes focused on specific age groups to promote participation in equestrian sport, as well as many age-related competitions and series across our Member Bodies.
Equestrian sport has many top level athletes competing across a wide age range – from Nick Skelton (oldest Olympic gold medallist for over a century at Rio 2016 at the age of 58), John Whitaker (oldest member of Team GB at Rio 2016) and Anne Dunham (oldest member of ParalympicsGB at Rio 2016), to Jessica Mendoza, (represented Great Britain at the 2015 FEI European Championships aged 19) and para dressage rider Izzy Palmer (currently the youngest rider on the World Class Programme, having joined the programme aged 14).
Equestrian sport is the only sport where men and women compete on equal terms, with equal prize money and access to all competitions. In terms of participants, equestrian sport is one of the few sports where the majority of participants are female (67% according to the BETA National Equestrian Survey 2019) and 90% of coaches are female (British Equestrian Coaching Survey 2019).
Most of the teams at major competitions are mixed, with a couple of recent notable exceptions. An all-female para dressage team gained team silver at the FEI European Championships in 2019, while in contrast an all- male dressage team competed at the FEI European Championships in 2017 – the first time for 40 years.
In addition, equestrian sport has women in high profile positions and in receipt of significant awards. In 2019, Pippa Funnel MBE won the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award following her win at Burghley Horse Trials, some 16 years after she last triumphed there to became the first person to secure the Rolex Grand Slam. Sophie Christiansen CBE came fifth at the 2016 Sports Personality of the Year in 2016, and then finished as the top female and top Paralympic athlete at same awards in 2018.
Because equestrian sport isn't gender segregated, there is no requirement to identify or test for a specific gender for competition at any level. This makes the competition environment particularly inclusive for transgender athletes.
Equestrian sport has an incredibly strong record in relation to disability participation and talent, with over 24% of our participants having a disability. Many of our elite para equestrian athletes started riding with Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), which currently has over 27,000 participants. The Riding for the Disabled National Championships is the largest event of its kind in the world for riders and drivers with disabilities, greater than the combined equestrian representation at a Paralympic Games and Para Dressage World Championships.
In addition to the work of the RDA, British Equestrian has its Accessibility Mark programme that aims to support commercial riding centres to ensure that, through training, they have the confidence and ability to provide for riders with a range of disabilities.
Internationally, Great Britain’s para dressage team is undefeated at the Paralympic Games.
It has been noted by Dashper, 2012 in the journal Sociology that equestrian sport is ‘shown to offer an unusually tolerant environment for gay men in which heterosexual men of all ages demonstrate low levels of homophobia.’
There are also some high-profile equestrians who are openly gay, including Sir Lee Pearson, and both Carl Hester and Spencer Wilton, who competed in the dressage team at Rio 2016 are openly gay. In 2019, 14% of the team that support our World Class athletes identified as LGBT+, significantly above the national average.
There are many riders who are married, in civil-partnerships or single at all levels of the sport, from recreational riders through grassroots to elite level. The demographics of British Equestrian in 2016, including consultants, showed a diversity of marital status with 53% married, 40% not married or not in a civil partnership, 5% in a civil partnership and 2% did not answer the question.
Ros Canter was competing internationally in September 2019 after giving birth to her first daughter, Ziggy Grace, in early July. Zara Phillips competed at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy (2014) seven months after giving birth to her daughter, Mia. Tina Cook and Piggy March are also examples of World Class Programme supported athletes who have returned to international competition after the birth of their children. From a grassroots perspective, there are a number of riding schools that provide a crèche facility to support mothers.
British Equestrian has worked with a number of groups to promote inclusion in equestrian sport, including St James’ City Farm in Gloucester and the Urban Equestrian Academy in Leicester. We have supported and part-funded the work of Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, and continue to support them via their Young Equestrians club.
We are aware that racial diversity is not an area where equestrian sport is strong and there is more work we can do in this area, which we are developing through our work towards the Advanced Equality Standard. We're aware that if we look at riding centre location, over 96% of centres are located in areas with lower than average ethnic diversity.
British Equestrian has linked up the Al Buraq riding club in London, alongside London Sport and Sporting Equals, in order to provide additional support and access to funding opportunities. Al Buraq is a women-only riding club run for women who prefer to ride not in the presence of men, or who do this due to religious reasons.
 Dashper, 2012. Sociology