Embracing Equity for our Para-Equestrians

Embracing Equity for our Para-Equestrians

This year’s International Womens day Campaign is a strong one.

Embrace Equity.

I personally don’t think I’ve fully considered what the word equity means. I tend to hear a lot about equality, but not much about equity.

To put it into context, equality means creating the same opportunities for everyone, no matter their circumstances. Whereas equity takes into account the specific needs of an individual, addresses them, and creates an even playing field for all.

Something that I learnt over the weekend at the National Equine Show was the needs of those with learning difficulties when taking part in a showjumping competition. Many places now follow the drawn order scenario, where the rider is told whereabouts in the line up they will be competing. This is all very well, and most are accepting of this… however what if someone has difficulty in learning a course? Is it fair to just tell them when they are to jump? What if that person is drawn in the first 5 competitors? This immediately puts them at a disadvantage as they may have not had a proper chance to learn the course, based on their own specific difficulties. Should we, therefore, be making allowances for those with learning difficulties in this sort of situation? I certainly think so.

Another scenario we should consider is the needs of para-riders who compete alongside able-bodied competitors. Depending on their personal situation, a para-rider may be at an immediate disadvantage to their competitors – so what steps should we be taking to ensure Equity for all?

I was lucky enough to speak to 5 para-equestrians to get their views on this fantastic campaign, and perhaps what more should be done to create equity for all in the equestrian world.

I interviewed the following women, who all had fantastic views on the subject:

Angela Lyons - AL

Emma Golding - EG

Jade Moore - JM

Jemima Croft - JC

Heather Lemmon - HL

I asked all five ladies the same questions, and their answers in some cases were fairly surprising.

What does “Embrace Equity” mean to you?

(JC) To me, this means fully accepting the responsibility we all have to provide everyone with fair and successful opportunities.

(HL) Equity for me means society will gradually become a fairer place for everyone regardless of background and opportunities. Our society is structured a lot on oppressive and unfair models developed over any different rise and falls. The trouble is the models have never really changed. There are the “haves” and the “have nots”. Modern day equality often means another group loses something in trying to achieve balance. Embrace Equity means a more individual approach with respect, understanding…(and) hopefully nobody loses in achieving the better world to exist in.

(AL) In my world as a rider with disabilities equity offers me the opportunity to compete against able-bodied riders. I have been given compensatory aides to help with my disabilities and helps put me on a more level playing field

(JM) Embrace equity means…not over looking the littlest actions which can make a huge impact

(EG) Everybody gets the opportunity to compete or take part in whatever they want to do within the equestrian world regardless of their gender, race or disability.

Why is a campaign like #embraceequity needed?

(JM) Campaigns like these are so important because accessibility is not a one size fits all solution. While changes have been made, we are still fighting to allow everyone equal access to our sport, tailored to their needs.

(HL) Campaigns such as these inspire women to come together, share stories, ideas and find ways to implement the idea of Equity. Social change is difficult, it’s something women have been working towards for many years…larger pools for networking help to create better and safer ways of affecting this change

(JC) The campaign is needed to build a community with the same goals. It has to be team effort across the equine industry as a whole

(AL) Through this campaign I have learnt the difference between equity and equality. A campaign like this will create awareness and help towards building true inclusion and diversity

As a para-equestrian, what would equity in the equestrian world look like to you?

(JC) As a para-rider, it would be removing barriers that prevent disabled riders from succeeding in the equine community…providing accessible equestrian venues, giving more disabled people the opportunity to be employed in the industry (and) making education more achievable by providing individual support

(HL) Easier access to facilities, coaching pathways that help trainers understand disabilities to better understand para-riders, access to compensating aides, timetables & rulebooks etc being easier to navigate, representation over tokenism

(JM) Equity is going to look different in every aspect of the equestrian world. It should start with riding centres having appropriate mounting blocks/hoists for RDA riders. I would love to see vocal aides being allowed in para-dressage as my voice is such an important aide. Even small changes like a disabled toilet being a requirement at all shows.

(EG) Everybody being given the opportunities to do what they want to do, regardless of who they are. As a para-equestrian, it would be being able to compete against able-bodied people with compensatory aides, in any discipline they choose to take part in. Everyone should be on as equal footing as possible

Which women do you look up to in the equestrian industry?

(EG) I’m going to pick drivers! The first is Mareike Harm who is the only female four in hand driver in the FEI top 10, and actually amongst the FEW top 20…both her grooms on the carriage are also female…most of the drivers at that level are male but usually there is at least one male groom too. So the fact she has an all female team is inspiring to me

(JM) I have been blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible equestrian women…I have always loved eventers like Pippa Funnell, Mary King and Piggy March. In a digital world I love following the story of Frankie Townsend (@frankies_ponies) and her sisters who all have their own health issues

(AL) There are so many women I admire in the equestrian world. Those women…who have families & jobs but still find time to give back to the industry

(JC) I don’t like to have idols so I look up to any women who strive to make a change in the industry. Women that have started or lead their own companies, women that support women, women who are driving forces to help improve the industry for the better

(HL) I look up to every woman in the equine industry. Each of us brings a uniqueness and drive to the horse world. No matter who you are, what your achievements are or what you aspire to be, I look up to you. No woman stands alone, we are all in this together.

I'm not sure I could have said any of this better myself.
This International Women's Day lets strive to make changes to bring Equity to everyone, no matter who they are, what they’ve done or what their circumstances are.

We all deserve an equal playing field, and to be given the chance to do the best we can.