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15 August 2018

BHA Board member and passionate advocate for racing’s people, Laura Whyte discusses her first experience of the Grand National, supporting Ebony Horse Club and attending her first Racing to School day at Sandown Park.

My racing journey

I grew up in the suburbs of Liverpool so my first racing experience was the Grand National and that remains one of my earliest sporting memories – albeit I remember the weather being much less pleasant for the meetings than it seems to be now!

As a participant I was a late comer to the world of equestrianism, learning to ride in my late twenties but it was a passion that developed deeply and quickly. I found myself working with the British Equestrian Federation as a non-executive director when I retired from full-time life as HR Director in John Lewis, and also joining the BHA Board.

Racing’s Community Engagement

I was fortunate to be able to support the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. I saw at first-hand what being around horses meant for the local young people and the benefits it brings in terms of confidence, team working, communication and sense of achievement.

There is good commercial sense in racing engaging with its local communities, through organizations like Ebony. Building relationships and breaking down barriers can only improve attendance at race meetings and raise awareness of the many different career opportunities in racing, whether yard or stud-based, or on a racecourse itself.

A day out with Racing to School

We compete for the next generation’s attention with a multitude of other leisure and sporting activities. So, I was really looking forward to spending time with the Racing to School team as they delivered one of their programmes at Sandown Park. It was fascinating to see how few of the young people had ever been inside their local course, and even more interesting to see how few of those had actually been for a race day rather than another event. I really enjoyed seeing the young people engage with the activities in the weighing room, parade ring and on the course itself.

But what will stick in my memory for a long time is the look on their faces as they stood by the winning post at the finish as the horses thundered past………racing’s most compelling ambassadors are undoubtedly those with four legs!

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