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23 March 2020

Eleanor Boden lives a non-stop life. A committed academic and hands-on team player with Scottish Racing and Racing to School, Eleanor is at the centre of the launch of the new Scottish Racing Academy.

Plenty to add to last time…

The last time I was invited to write a blog for Racing Together was three years ago when I was appointed as Scottish Racing’s Community Engagement Officer for a ‘pilot year’. During this time we saw the development of key partnerships, such as with Alzheimer Scotland and William Hill, and an increase in key local activities at each of the five Scottish Racecourses.  The Scottish Racing and William Hill partnership went on to win the Equality and Inclusion category at the Racecourse Association Showcase & Awards last November, and ‘on home turf’, at Hamilton Park.

More recently, being a finalist in the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards was a huge honour, particularly as all those listed in the top ten, were worthy of the top prize. I had a fantastic day and evening. Godolphin and the BHA really make you feel special throughout the day, and I am delighted for Simone who won the Community Award.  Overall winner James Frank, who I had got to know throughout the day, was a true gentleman who clearly loves his role and the industry.

Shortlist for the Rory MacDonald Community category at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards. The ceremony was hosted at Shakespeare’s Underglobe earlier this year.

Hard to choose between my roles

I don’t think I could pick a role that makes me most proud, because each of the projects we are working on are so different. I am incredibly proud of all of the work currently being carried out in Scottish Racing as we are asking questions and thinking laterally. Most importantly, we are prepared to keep an open mind on any areas that might need revisiting or amending as we go forward.

My own background is in teaching, learning and research, so I am incredibly fortunate to have a job where I can demonstrate my passion for horses, people and progress. I get the best of both worlds: I am part of an excellent, forward-thinking Scottish Racing team and am also led by the fantastic Trustees of the Scottish Racing Academy.  Each of the Trustees has significant expertise both in and out of racing which, provides me with invaluable guidance daily.   

The Scottish Racing Academy

As part of the Community Engagement work, Scottish Racing forged a strong relationship with the Developing Young Workforce (DYW) teams, which highlighted the embedded nature of the horse in Scotland, most notably in the Scottish Borders.  This interest from Schools and Colleges alike created a pathway for the Scottish Racing Academy to be developed, with the support of the Racing Foundation.

The Scottish Racing Academy (SRA) is a new charity that has been developed to address the gap in horseracing education and training provision available in Scotland. The Scottish Racing Academy aims to provide learner-based training for anyone who would like to learn the skills required to gain employment in one of many roles in racing. We also cater for anyone who already works in the horseracing industry who wishes to upskill their knowledge. The new qualifications have been written in consultation with Scottish Trainers and staff to provide choice to learners, while also nurturing talent.

The Scottish Racing Academy represents a collaboration between Scottish Racing, British Horseracing industry partners and Scottish education partners, such as Scotland’s Rural College and Borders College. This approach seeks to build on existing good practice and assets. It does not intend to replicate existing provision, but instead to complement it by providing alternative options for learners who have left school (legally) at 15, or would like to train in Scotland.

The courses are live and we are now taking applications in preparation for our August 2020 start. Our shorter courses, however, will be running several times throughout the year. We have recently launched our new website:

If you have any questions , please do get in touch.

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Applications already rolling in

The SRA will soon be recruiting tutors as well as students, and we are planning on getting our first cohort enrolled in August 2020. To date, we have received 20 applications, having only opened the admissions just a fortnight ago. 

As well as managing the Scottish Racing Academy, I remain Community Engagement lead for Scottish Racing and work with each of the racecourses.  Each course has their own established Community Engagement activity, so I have a dedicated contact at each track to oversee and complement their activity on a national scale. This formula is why it works so well – different projects but with one overall goal.

Plenty of exciting projects ahead

In terms of what is next, we are focusing on inclusivity in our new projects.  For example, all five courses have signed up to a Hidden Disability Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, which is designed to discreetly indicate to people, including racecourse staff, colleagues and health professionals that the wearer of the lanyard may need additional support and should be allowed little more time and understanding.

I am also working with each course to sign up to the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s (SAMH) Mental Health in Sport Charter, which follows this inclusive theme. The partnership with Alzheimer Scotland continues, and I was recently introduced to Gordon, whose father was a vet in the rural Scottish Borders and who now lives with a dementia diagnosis. Gordon has produced a song to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer Scotland. The song demonstrates in a beautiful way the ideology behind the partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, William Hill and Scottish Racing, which is to raise awareness and enable active engagement with communities, where horses and horseracing are deeply embedded.

Not forgetting my studies

On a more personal level, I am  writing the final two chapters of a PhD for submission to Durham University, which has been following young people through the different training pathways which exist in the UK and Ireland and sees them into early employment in the racing industry. I was also due to run the Edinburgh Marathon Festival to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer Scotland.  Sadly, this has now been delayed until September, owing to Covid-19,  but it still looks like this year might be just as busy as the last- hopefully!

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