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05 April 2024

The Pony Racing Authority’s Lea Allen is no stranger to the power that horses and ponies can have on young people. Here she discusses her work towards making the racing industry accessible to children of all backgrounds. 

My background is in coaching, mainly training and mentoring riding coaches across different disciplines. Having been involved in The Pony Club as a member, coach, parent, Branch DC and currently Chair of Pony Club Centres, my life has been spent volunteering with young people and ponies. I first came across pony racing when I started coaching for the Pony Racing Authority (PRA) at Training and Qualification days about 10 years ago, loved it and never looked back.  

Nationwide and wide open 

My current role is Pathway Coordinator for the ‘Pathway into Racing through Pony Racing’, now in the fourth year of a five-year collaboration supported by The Racing Foundation. The Pathway stakeholders – the PRA, Racing to School, The Pony Club and Careers in Racing, along with British Racing School and National Horseracing College – work together to introduce, inspire and signpost young people from all backgrounds to a future in racing. The pathway activities take place around the country, from Aberdeen to Bodmin and Ffos Las to Newmarket, and the stakeholders provide advice and support during the journey along the pathway and beyond. Although the activities have been delivered over several years, it is only since the Pathway was formally developed that there has been a coordinated approach and success can be quantified.  
Although it is early days, particularly with the average age that a participant enters the Pathway being 11, we are pleased to see promising results. An increasing number of those who don’t have a pony that attend a Taster Day are from urban areas and communities that would not normally see racing as a career option. Many have gained a place on a funded PRA Academy course and go on to Foundation courses at the racing schools or an apprenticeship. 

Always Learning  

I was pleased to attend the Racing Together Industry Day back in February and delighted to  come away with new contacts and new ideas. 

As a relative newcomer to racing, I take any chance I can to meet people in the industry and learn from them. The RT Industry Day was a perfect opportunity to do just this and what a day it was. Inspirational speakers, ideas to take away and adapt and most important of all, there was a good dose of common sense. 

I was aware of a feeling of openness throughout the day and that the industry is aiming to find solutions by working together, along with the importance of planning long term. 
Community Engagement 

I know that Community Day is an important industry event on 8th May and The PRA’s commitment to community engagement is ongoing and far-reaching. 

The Pathway’s current outreach work includes regular Pony Racing Taster Days, Careers Days at the Races and delivering children’s workshops at inner city riding schools and country shows. These are aimed at families that have no connection with racing and often no experience of ponies or riding. As we finalise plans for Year 4 and beyond, extending our reach is on the agenda at Stakeholder meetings.  

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