Horse Racing

Newmarket Pony Academy’s important role in young people’s lives

British Racing School (BRS) is well known for its key role in providing comprehensive training for young staff entering the industry and in recent years a new charity project has been started. on campus in Newmarket.

Newmarket Pony Academy (NPA) is the brainchild of Penny Taylor, director of Godolphin’s charity. Together with BRS CEO Andrew Braithwaite and former CEO Grant Harris, she built a pilot program to help vulnerable and disadvantaged students in the Suffolk and Basin areas and Cambridge.

“Schools can sign up a week in advance and assemble a group of young people who really need this opportunity,” said NPA director Anna Sylvester, herself a BRS graduate who has a long track record in racing and score before turning said. her attention to education in sports.

“Groups are either chosen by the school or the school carries the group all year. The program focuses on around the sixth year [age 10 to 11], so the children are still young, have not finished secondary school, are preparing to enter the rather difficult age of youth. We also work with referral agencies, alternative providers, specialty schools and high schools. We’ve done some work on excluded, non-attendant and severely anxious students, which has also worked very well.

Funding is guaranteed for the first three years, with financial support from West Suffolk County Council, Godolphin, Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charity, Thompson Family Charity, Orbital Housing, Tattersalls and National Lottery. Jockey Club Estates is also involved in building offices and classrooms for academy students at BRS, while legendary former diving athlete John Francome is the academy’s ambassador.

The learning module for the five-day program focuses on equine care in a way that incorporates elements of the national curriculum in English, math and science.

“For example, they write instructions on how to use imperative tenses and short, concise sentences,” explains Sylvester. “They estimate the horse’s height, then measure it and learn a lot about the diet. They feed the pony and then link it to their own diet, so we talk a lot about the importance of a balanced diet, carbohydrates, proteins, etc., which brings some science learn.

She continued, “But primarily, the week is designed around building confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, and resilience. And after Covid, there was a huge increase in anxiety and mental health problems. They work together a lot in groups and the use of horses makes them a bit out of place. And it was amazing to see how they bonded with them and how they evolved into people throughout the week. Most of them have never touched a horse before.”

In addition to the week-long courses, the NPA offers after-school clubs supported by the Tattersalls.

Sylvester says, “We run a half program, for kids who get a free school meal allowance, so they can ride horses but also get free meals and activities offered on the weekends. holiday. That’s funded by the West Suffolk County Council, so we’re building our sponsors.

“We have our own minibuses, funded by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust, so we can pick up and drop off kids during their school day making sure there are no barriers for them. Currently, we work with 20 local schools and we drive for any school that is a 20-minute drive away. If there are schools a little further away that want to participate, they just need to provide their own transportation. Primarily, the program is aimed at vulnerable and disadvantaged children but we also work with a lot of caregivers, child advocates, disadvantaged children, children in care. care and children are taken care of.”

Throughout 2021, 331 children attended Newmarket Pony Academy, cared for by 4 staff members and 17 volunteers. Funding has also been secured for next year, while the NPA recently ‘on toured’ with Riding A Dream Academy, which organizes regional weeks in London and Birmingham, which previously used the racecourse. Epsom horses as the basis for working with children from Peckham Academy. Expansion is on the cards, including hunting down the perfect ponies to add to the team, horses owned by the NPA or on loan.

The academy was also recently approved as a League Pony Club Center. With additional funding from Newmarket town councilor Andy Drummond and his wife Belinda, all NPA after-school members can now become Pony Club members.

“They can do their Pony Club badge and everything related to the Pony Club, which is amazing,” says Sylvester. “This definitely breaks barriers for young people who don’t have the finances or means to be able to join something like the Pony Club. They hold a few rallies here, so they’ll be able to engage with those.”

She added, “Even though we’re based in Newmarket, where cars stop to let racehorses cross the street and they see horses every day, it’s amazing how many young local people don’t have one yet. chance to engage with horses. And that’s the part where we really shine, that real, real experience.”

Along with giving back to children in the local community, the racing industry can sponsor a project like the Newmarket Horse Academy or the Riding A Dream Academy. In the latter case, that is starting to be seen, with five Racing Foundation-funded course graduates already working in the racing industry. Younger children who are referred to NPA by a teacher or social worker have an initial route to continuing through after-school clubs.

“We take children from the age of six, the age of 10 and they can stay with us until the age of 14, where they have the ability to continue with a flexible study plan at the Race School or 16 when they reach the age of 16. you can continue. foundation course,” explains Sylvester.

“The good thing is that at the Racecourse, they see the trainings going on, and if there are young people who find their safe place, their refuge, through the horses, they can often get into the industry. And we talk to them about the entire industry, so they have a very good understanding of what’s going on.”

The ‘acceleration’ effect would certainly benefit an industry that is eager to recruit more younger employees to its front lines, but it is only a side effect to the Newmarket Pony Academy’s core work in its daily activities. work helping young people through equine therapy. And as everyone who works in the business knows, they can bring hard work but horses are basically good for the soul. The more people who can discover that firsthand, the better.


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