Opening the Doors: When Cool Ridings Met with the Howden Way

Cool Ridings members were given a great educational opportunity subsidised by the Howden Way programme. Photo by Mia Benton.

British Eventing delivered The Howden Way regional academy to a group of Cool Ridings members at the weekend, giving its riders a fantastic taster of the superb training on offer via its national training syllabus.

Cool Ridings was founded in 2020 by event rider Lydia Heywood, who represents Jamaica. The organisation addresses an array of factors to improve diversity and ensure long-term sustainability of equestrian sport. The Howden Way ethos and that of Cool Ridings have perfect synergy in that both have a core objective of ensuring that everyone has access to the tools they need to succeed and overcome obstacles associated with riding competitively, whilst also ensuring equine welfare is at the centre of everything they do.

The academy was hosted purely for Cool Ridings members and saw a diverse group of riders hosted at the National Training Centre at Hothorpe, Leicestershire. The group had a broad range of experience, from those who had been riding competitively and already enjoying success, through to those who have been riding for a relatively short time, and some were on borrowed horses.

British Eventing Level 4 coach Michael Paveley delivered the riding sessions throughout the day, focusing on flatwork, a practice trot-up and then showjumping training within a replicated competition scenario. Riders also had the opportunity to benefit from a feeding and nutrition session delivered by British Eventing’s official feed partner, Baileys Horse Feeds, who focused on feeding the sport horse and answering any specific questions they had individually.

Eighteen-year-old Fabian Williams was one of those riders who attended.

“I come from a deprived area in London and I haven’t had many opportunities with horses, but I have a passion which has enabled me to create opportunities,” he says. “To have the chance to ride with a BE Level 4 coach feels surreal because coming from inner London, where there are absolutely no opportunities like this — it felt unreachable, unreal and unimaginable. These are the things I pray for and being able to attend last weekend felt like my dreams were becoming a reality.”

Justine Parker, Head of Training and Development at British Eventing, says, “This has been such an inspiring day and the talent and commitment of the riders, across all levels, has been exceptional. This is the first academy day of its kind that we have run, and it has been an absolute success on so many levels. Today absolutely reinforces why we should be delivering days like this for riders, who may not normally have had access to our academies which run across the country for our members. By creating a bespoke day to cater for those who were borrowing horses and were perhaps coming to their first ever training day, it allowed them to take on the day confidently.

“One of the core messages when we announced the launch of The Howden Way training structure was that it was to be a vehicle to deliver an accessible holistic education syllabus for everyone and to create a welcoming and nurturing environment, growing camaraderie and mutual support, which today epitomized. The Academies are open to non-members for their first two sessions, and we trust that today’s riders will feel it has given them a stepping-stone to move into our national The Howden Way regional academies with confidence.”

Lydia Heywood summed up the success of the day: “Cool Ridings recognise that bringing underrepresented riders together for training creates an enormous amount of camaraderie and confidence which is vital when it comes to progressing in equestrian sport. I had high expectations for this alignment however the experience certainly went above and beyond them. Michael Paveley made the perfect coach with his kind, wise and well-informed approach. I am overjoyed to witness these academies in action and the spectacular syllabus that was distributed. We are truly very grateful for the opportunities that have been made available to us by British Eventing and The Howden Way.”

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