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28 June 2024

Meet the PRA’s new Chief Executive, Fiona Rawson

Earlier this year, the Pony Racing Authority (PRA) appointed Fiona Rawson as their new Chief Executive. Here she speaks to Racing Together about her new role, the future of the PRA and her experience of joining the Racing to School team for a day of learning at Perth.

I joined the PRA in March as their new Chief Executive.  Prior to this appointment, I have worked within Equestrian Sport for over 20 years, holding different roles with horsescotland (previously known as Scottish Equestrian Association). horsescotland is the recognised Scottish Governing Body for horse sport in Scotland. As Education and Development Manager I was required to work closely with our member body organisations, sportscotland and the Scottish Government to lead the organisation in all aspects of their Governance; delivery of the coaching and performance strategies, while ensuring that inclusion and safeguarding remained a priority throughout. I was also involved in a variety of voluntary roles including being on multiple club committees, event organisation and in 2023 I joined the Scottish Racing Academy as a Trustee.

Passion for participation led to PRA

Joining the Scottish Racing Academy opened my eyes to the opportunities within the racing community and aligned with my values of breaking down the barriers to provide opportunities within Equestrianism. When the Pony Racing Authority role came along, I was attracted to the role as the Pony Racing Academies work tirelessly to provide opportunities to participate in Pony racing without the associated challenges of owning a pony.  

With my passion for inclusion and participation in mind, I was delighted to attend a Pony Club Racing Day at Ascot Racecourse in early April. It was a first opportunity to meet some of the Racing to School delivery team and to find out more about their roles; I was able to learn and observe their excellent delivery as part of the Pony Racing Authority taster session in the morning – thank you for having me along!

Partnership approach working well

During the session, the attendees were able to get involved in a fitness and balance workout, complete a tour of the racecourse and have a look at the different pieces of equipment with our PRA Coaches. Racing to School also provided the chance for the young people to try out their riding skills on an equiciser.  The  partnership between the two organisations really demonstrated the authentic opportunities available and the curiosity that can be instilled in young people who have not considered racing, or Pony Racing as an opportunity.

The day had an excellent turn out, with 35 attending the Taster session and 122 ponies entered across a nine-race racecard, which included 17 riders from our Pony Racing Academies with a further two graduates riding their own ponies that further demonstrated the appetite and need for these experiences. Critically, our major funding partner, The Racing Foundation was also in attendance to capture some footage and interviews from a number of delighted young people taking part in their first race – it was fantastic to see the joy and excitement throughout the whole day along with other partners Careers in Racing. 

Creating chances to succeed

My next interaction with Racing to School was through attending a Schools’ Programme day at Perth Racecourse, which was being delivered by Carrie (Ford). Having not observed these days before, it was inspiring to see how the wider curriculum and horseracing could be aligned. The engagement from the pupils in all the tasks and the questions they asked showed we had some budding racing fanatics in attendance.

Looking ahead, I am keen to review and extend our partnership working to ensure that there is a robust and sustainable pathway. We want young people on our PRA programmes to develop skills, knowledge and behaviours in a positive, supported environment so that they are suitably prepared to go into the wider horseracing industry with the best chance to succeed.

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