David Fleming, Engagement Manager of Ebony Horse Club in South London is bringing his love and lifelong understanding of horses and racing to a growing and eager number of young people who live local to the Club.
A globe-trotting career in Bloodstock
Growing up in Ireland I was introduced to horses and indeed racing from a very early age. My extended family has owned and bred racehorses for generations – both horses and racing have been a fundamental part of my life. As a youngster I studied Stallions in the Sires directory and researched sales catalogues from all around the world.
On completing equine studies at college, I cut my teeth at Coolmore where I worked for over eight years. I learned the management of mares, foals, and stallion handling; I also trained in yearling preparation and development. I worked my way up to eventually manage the consignment of yearlings on behalf of Coolmore in Germany, the US and Australia. On my return to Ireland I worked on the stallion team at Coolmore’s Castle Hyde Stud.
I lived in New Zealand for eight years where I attended every major sale in the southern hemisphere, buying and selling horses on behalf of clients in Australia and New Zealand.
On my return from New Zealand, I was offered a position at Racing Post in London and enjoyed a rewarding few years on their International Bloodstock team.
A change of scene at Ebony Horse Club
I have now taken a break from the thoroughbred industry to help Ebony Horse Club. I was first introduced to Ebony while working at Racing Post, as they were looking for an experienced person to help run the charity. I felt that this would be a great opportunity to give something back. One of my main objectives here is to nurture and educate disadvantaged young people and give them exposure to opportunities within the racing industry. I am currently working with several of our members to develop and direct their skills, which will give them the necessary tools to start and develop careers in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.
My role at Ebony as Engagement Manager is unique and very rewarding. We raise the aspirations of our young people and give them the tools they need to pursue career opportunities within the industry.
Why Ebony works
Horses are infectious, and I am incredibly passionate about them. I wanted to pass on some of the knowledge I’d picked up through my career to help the young people at Ebony develop personally and learn new skills.
Giving young people from inner-city London access to horses and horse riding makes the sport relevant to them, regardless of where they live. Our riders are all drawn from within a two-mile radius of the Club, ensuring that our activities are truly serving the local community, an ethos which has been in place throughout our 22-year history. Our youth development programmes focus, not only on the physical benefits of taking part in the sport but also help with a range of core skills, such as communication, responsibility, confidence and teamwork.
Living in an area that is classed as within the 10% most deprived in the country, our beneficiaries are facing statistics such as 37% of 19-year olds living in the borough being classed as lacking qualifications; and 36% of all children in the borough live in poverty. We are extremely proud of providing new opportunities to families who simply would not have the means to access them, and to see over a dozen young people gain work or go on to study in the equine industry as a direct result of their time at Ebony Horse Club is so rewarding for us and our volunteers.
Racing doing its bit to welcome Ebony members
We have been working very hard to introduce our members to the world of horseracing, some of whom have been attending pony racing. We have also taken a group of young people to The British Racing School for a residential course, during which they learned how to ride racehorses. They enjoyed visits to James Fanshawe’s yard, Godolphin and Banstead Manor. On the back of this trips several of our young people have expressed an interest in racing as a career, with one of our young members hoping to get his amateur licence next year. We are very proud of one of our members who has recently completed a course at the National Stud and been offered a position at Godolphin.
We are incredibly excited and honoured to have Oli Bell as our Patron. His enthusiasm and passion for what we are trying to achieve is very clear and serves as an inspiration to our young people.
Providing new pathways to a career in racing
We will be running more structured sessions in the New Year, in order to give our young people the opportunity to develop the foundation skills they need.
The highlights for next year include:
- Horse riding lessons at Ebony Horse Club
- Structured volunteering and horse care sessions on our yard at Ebony Horse Club
- Trips to race meetings and racing industry events
- Excursions and residential trips to racing-related venues such as the British Racing School, National Stud and training yards
- Talks and workshops at Ebony Horse Club
The activities will aim to build the practical skills needed to work in the racing industry, such as riding ability and caring for horses. A key part of the programme is to help get our young people “work ready” for the industry, which has a recruitment gap, particularly for stable staff.