New Khadijah Mellah Scholarship aims to widen access to horseriding

We are delighted to share the news that The Khadijah Mellah Scholarship – a year-long programme for riders aged 14-18 years old – has recently been announced by theRiding a Dream Academy, funded by the Racing Foundation and the Jockey Club.

Alumna Khadijah Mellah was named The Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year 2019 in recognition of her groundbreaking Magnolia Cup victory at Goodwood in August 2019. Khadijah was the first woman to ride competitively on a British racecourse in a hijab and became front-page news after successfully guiding the Charlie Fellowes-trained Haverland to victory in the charity race. With odds of 25:1, Khadijah was both the youngest and least-experienced jockey of the 12-strong field. The experience of this south London Muslim teenager conquering a predominantly white, wealthy sport has made Khadijah a national and international role model:

One of the main things that I had to adapt to was the idea that I was a role model to people. To me that was very strange because literally a couple months before my race I was seeking role models and inspiration to help motivate me through my training and to think that I had gone (to) the opposite side of the spectrum was mind-blowing.’

The new Academy is being set up to help get more young horse riders from under-represented communities into racing. Eight young people will get the chance to train for a week at the British Racing School in Newmarket before returning for 11 monthly lessons under the guidance of a mentor. The scholarship also involves work experience at a leading racing stable and the chance to work towards a qualification. The second part is a residential week at the British Racing School for those less experienced with horses. Khadijah says “I hope that other people like me and in communities like me can aspire and have big dreams and achieve goals that they wouldn’t imagine. I hope to encourage and inspire people from my community and other urban communities to feel comfortable and confident and join the racing industry whether it be as a jockey or as a spectator.’”

You can read more about Khadijah’s story on Instagram here

Trainer Charlie Fellowes said: “Khadijah’s story and success was so powerful, and creating a lasting legacy that helps other young people from under-represented backgrounds get into racing is something that we all see the value in. I can’t wait to get involved.

Khadijah learned to ride at the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, whose mission is to use horses to improve the lives of young people from disadvantaged communities within Lambeth. She made her historic win whilst doing her A Levels:

I want to say thank you to the staff at Sydenham High as they have been a massive help figuring out my options. It was difficult balancing studying with training but Sydenham was really accommodating and my teachers  supported  me through this experience.

The impact that Khadijah’s story has had on the school community, and the wider GDST, has been considerable. She was the Prize Giving speaker at Prep School in 2020 and was also part of the GDST Bursary Campaign. Khadijah is now studying mechanical engineering at Brighton University. She plays polo for the university, rides a moped and is also a black belt in karate. She hopes to return to racing and is also an ambassador for Great British Racing.

Last week Khadijah and her brother received an invitation from the Duchess of Cornwall, who is the patron of Ebony Horse Club, to be her personal guests at Royal Ascot.

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