Our Creative Programme Manager, Sarah Coleman is delighted to give an update on one of our future projects which is going to share stories of the huge talent and dedication of women in racing and give a roundup of some of the work already achieved: ‘We are excited to have linked up with Women in Racing and to be in the initial stages of sourcing funds to co-curate an exhibition, co-produce events and make educational resources celebrating women in racing. International Women’s Day is so great for us to highlight women in the sport, but really it’s about every day and ensuring representation and celebration throughout the year and we can’t wait to give women in racing the platform they deserve.’

In December 2022, the temporary display, ‘Wondrous Women Jockeys’ was launched at the museum. For the very first time, we highlighted the achievement of women in the sport and celebrated female jockeys through an exploration of their history in racing at the museum. Did you know that women were first granted the right to race in 1972 when The Jockey Club introduced a 12 race series for female amateur flat jockeys?

The display showcased examples of women and their achievements; from Meriel Tufnell, the first female winner of a race under Jockey Club rules in 1972, to Rachael Blackmore, the first woman to win the Grand National in 2021.

In November 2023, NHRM partnered with the Whiting’s On the Wall and hosted a performance of HORSE PLAY which looked back at the huge achievement made by Gay Kelleway in winning at Royal Ascot on Sprowston Boy in 1987 – a record held by Gay unbroken for 32 years until 2019 when Hayley Turner won the Sandringham Stakes on Thanks Be.

Recently, the museum has highlighted the ground-breaking achievements of Khadijah Mellah and Ashleigh Wicheard through ‘Horseracing’s Sheroes’, a project started during Black History Month in 2023 which focused on the contribution of ‘sheroes’ and building an archive of black history stories in horseracing in the museum. Khadijah and Ashleigh are trailblazers, both winners of the Markel Magnolia Cup at Goodwood – Khadijah was the first Muslim woman to win a race in a hijab and Ashleigh was the first person in horseracing to take the knee before the start of a horse race in 2022.

NHRM has also helped Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to shine a light on Ellen Chaloner, who in 1866 became the first female trainer, taking over her husband’s business following his death. She will be remembered in an upcoming exhibition Celebrating Diversity, at the Hold in Ipswich.

Our new work with Women in Racing will explore women in racing in all kinds of roles, from training winning horses to breeding and stable work and we hope to capture and record more stories. Watch this space for further updates and information on how to get involved!

Norah Wilmott – in 1966, Norah became the first woman to train a winner in Britain.

Meriel Tufnell – in 1972, was the first female jockey to ride a winner in Britain

Jenny Pitman – trained 1983 Grand National and 1985 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners

Hayley Turner – in 2011, was the first female jockey to win a Group 1 race on the flat

Lizzie Kelly – in 2015, was the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 race over jumps in 2015

Khadijah Mellah – in 2019 became the first jockey to win a race wearing a hijab in the Markel Magnolia Cup at Goodwood.

Rachael Blackmore – won the Grand National in 2021 and made history as winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the first woman to do so.

Ashleigh Wicheard – won the Markel Magnolia Cup in 2022 and was the first person to take the knee at the start of a horse race.

Men and women have competed equally in horsemanship since 1972.

In 2022, female jockeys made up 16% of professional jockeys.

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