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Breaking down Barriers on Horseback

Horse-riding classes are being held exclusively for women to break down barriers in Leicester.

City-based riding school and social enterprise Urban Equestrian Academy launched in 2015 with lessons for young people – but began promoting adult lessons after their growing success.


Leona White-Simmonds, 51, who works with the academy, had her first experience of riding as part of a play-scheme as a child in Birmingham.


After moving to Birmingham to Leicester in her twenties, she rekindled her love for riding but, as a Black woman, said that she “never saw anyone who looked like [her]” at any of the stables she visited. As she got older “life got in the way” and riding was no longer a priority for Leona.


Now, these new classes for women are Leona’s opportunity to bring other women of colour into the predominantly white, and seemingly exclusive equestrian world.

“In certain spaces, I think it takes a particular character to be able to feel comfortable when you’re the only non-white person.


“I don’t think I had been in stables riding where there was another Black woman,” Leona told LeicestershireLive.


The classes are currently restricted to six women due to Covid-19 regulations – but already have a long waiting list of women from Leicester.


“It’s nice watching people come into a space that they’ve never had access to before,” she said.

As well getting “fantastic exercise”, Leona said, the women involved, who are from all walks of life, are breaking down barriers for “people of colour to be more accepted” in the equestrian world.

Shereen Allen, who is part of the women’s cohort, has started riding again after 20 years.

Describing herself as a “beginner again”, Shereen said the sessions were “reconnecting” her with it all and building her confidence.


The Urban Equestrian Academy which the sessions are held by has worked with inner-city communities for several years, opening up new opportunities to people of all ages.


Earlier this year, Kanane Francis, a 17-year-old aspiring jockey from Evington, graduated from riding school after being introduced to the industry as a volunteer at the academy.


Founder, Tariq Freedom Zampaladus, has been commended for his contribution to the lives of children in Leicester.


Kanane previously told LeicestershireLive: “Tariq has helped me a lot- I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for him.


“I’m happy to be under his wing, he has opened a lot of doors for me.”

The women’s only riding sessions will continue next year with the help of National Lottery funding.