By James Reid at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Equestrian for a quid is the key behind a pioneering attempt to bring the elite world of horses to inner city Leicester.
Urban Equestrian Academy, based in the Highfields area of the city, aim to break down the barriers to entry into equestrian for disadvantaged young people.
A handful of the young riders recently visited Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, one of the most iconic 5* eventing competitions in the sport that has returned bigger and better than ever in 2022 after two missed years due to Covid-19.
And volunteer Salahudeen Kara hopes the chance to experience the very top of the sport can prove inspirational for the top riders of tomorrow.
“With our small setup, they’re not really exposed to the wider equestrian world,” said Kara, who himself took up horse riding while at the University of Leicester.
“A big event like Burghley shows every aspect of the equestrian world and it will make them passionate for what they can go on to do.
“Some of the young people here today, their passion is eventing, so that’s why I’m trying to take them for a walk around the course.”
Urban Equestrian Academy was set up by Freedom Zampaladu and has sites in both Leicester and South London.
Members pay just £1 a month for access to all of the services offered by the charity, which sees young people have the opportunity to ride, groom, and muck out horses.
And Kara believes the benefits go well beyond simply enjoying time in the saddle and the stables.
“It’s hugely important and most of our young people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get out of the situations they were in if they didn’t have this,” added Kara.
“They certainly wouldn’t have had horse riding as an option. Most people who come haven’t ridden a horse, haven’t been around horses, come from that typical horse background.
“The chance that they get to not only work with horses but learn about hard work and how much you can get out of being around horses – you see the young people become really excited by it, become really passionate.
“They’ll talk to anyone about it and it’s amazing to see people from that kind of background come into the equestrian environment.
“Our next step is to get people into the equestrian industry.”
It is an industry that Kara recognises still has much to do in terms of opening up its doors to a wider range of backgrounds.
Equestrian is a largely white and wealthy sport, something Kara and his group of non-white young people at Burghley are determined to change.
“We definitely don’t come from the traditional horse background,” admitted Kara.
“That’s pretty much the vein through all of our young people but they still have the same passion and drive.
“Once they’ve got the bug they’ll fit in and be able to talk to anyone about horses.
“When we come to events, we know and can feel that there aren’t many other people that look like us and dress like us.
“Our young people take pride in the fact that they’re representing and that’s something that we’ll always say: we’re here to represent.
“This sport and this industry is for everyone, it should always be for everyone, and we want to make it known.
“We won’t try and dumb down the fact that we’re different. We’re happy to represent and happy to be that pioneer.
“It’s hard work, there’s always resistance to those changes but we’re happy to do it.
“We’d like to be a pioneer in every aspect that we can.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk