F EATURE IN THE COMMUNITY
Association. With its incredible stories of bravery in the face of remarkable challenges, the RDA reminds us that horses and ponies provide not just the exhilaration of racing, but a calming, therapeutic support to people of all ages who live with a disability. We are tremendously proud of our relationship with the RDA, who can always be found on our family racedays making rosettes or colouring in with the hundreds of children who descend on the Racecourse. Without the racing community, institutions like ours would be lost. With no fans to fill the stands and no jockeys to provide the spectacle, the amphitheatre of Cheltenham Racecourse would have a very different soul. It is of fundamental importance to us that we support the next generation of racing enthusiasts, both on and off the track. As such we remain committed to our Junior Jumpers initiative, which goes from strength to strength, providing young racegoers to The Jockey Club in the South West with an identity and a voice. We are always looking for ways to diversify our programmes and an opportunity presented itself for Junior Jumpers in the form of Pony Racing. Offering a glimpse into the future, a springboard for aspiring young jockeys to experience hallowed turf, showcasing their talents at fixtures such as Cheltenham’s Good Friday meeting. It was here that we met Aamilah Aswat, a girl with perfect hands and posture. Despite getting the best from her pony, she was last. For a talented rider to be so well beaten was a shame. One of the wonderful things about being involved in our local community is that we come across people like Imran. While communities can make great things happen for good causes, this is the story of a good cause making great things happen for its community. Imran and his colleague Sarah support local children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to ride, have access to ponies and lessons. He is the soul of The St James City Farm; a hidden gem at the heart of Gloucester City, with chickens, a goat, a pot-bellied pig, ducks and a pony – and a girl who captured hearts on Good Friday. When we met Aamilah and Imran, we knew what we wanted to do. We would purchase a pony for Aamilah and the others at St James City Farm to ride and to race, and this time be competitive. Pony after pony was viewed and lost. Dejected but unbeaten, we enlisted Whetherwe are giving back or paying it forward, communitymatters
the help of Gold Cup-winning trainer Noel Chance to find a pony in Ireland. A great supporter of the Racecourse, Noel rose to the challenge. After hundreds of miles of searching, he found a hugely exciting prospect, Al Buraaq Zara, a pony with fantastic bloodlines out of Notepad by Zebedee, the progeny of stars Invincible Spirit and King’s Best. Zipping along gallops kindly lent by legendary trainer Kim Bailey, Zara began to bond with Aamilah. The pony was more than living up to expectation and Aamilah was proving that the great posture and hands we saw on Good Friday really were the marks of a budding professional jockey. Despite the challenges of lockdown, the partnership continues to grow. Aamilah keeps Zara in work, maintaining her fitness, keeping her ready for her next step, to race. So, with that in mind, Olympic Equestrian and Cheltenham Committee member Zara Tindall paid her namesake a visit. Greeted by the goat, Zara found Imran’s ponies hidden out of sight in spotless stables. Aamilah was quietly tacking up her perfectly groomed pony, their bond apparent. Introducing the two Zaras, Aamilah led them to the arena before Zara shared her experience and wisdom. As she left, Zara joked that there was little point in her coming as Aamilah is more than capable, and her little namesake is most exciting. Having such a giant of the equestrian world visit the farm was a glowing endorsement of the wonderful facility that the charity provides for its community. The visit was a great high for staff and volunteers at the end of a tough six months, a turning point with Aamilah and Zara now able to look forward to the season ahead. There is always more to do, but the excitement here is building as the seed of our community programme begins to shoot. Our Junior Jumpers will have a pony to follow for this season and for many more to come. Whether we are giving back or paying it forward, community matters.
50 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE
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