18-year-old becomes first female Muslim jockey to win major race: ‘I love proving people wrong’

Metro Lifestyle 1 month ago
Khadijah Mellah riding her horse
‘When I’m riding, I feel like I can accomplish anything’ (Picture: Mark Cranham/focusonracing.com)

18-year-old Khadijah Mellah, from Peckham, made British history and global headlines in August when she became the first British female Muslim jockey to win a major race.

She took the historic victory at the Magnolia Cup, and now a new documentary will document her incredible rise to the top.

The show, Riding a Dream, will document Khadijah’s journey from learning to ride at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton to her victory at Goodwood, including a gruelling four-month training process.

Coming from an area in London with some of the highest concentrations of child poverty in the UK, horse riding was not on Khadijah’s radar growing up – but she’s delighted to have been given the opportunity to inspire others.

‘I love proving people wrong when it comes to what a Muslim girl can or can’t do,’ Khadijah tells Metro.co.uk.

‘For someone like me to have won a horse race and made history for British female Muslims feels very important. I hope that other young women will see my story and be motivated and determined to achieve their goals too.’

Khadijah has been riding at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton every week for more than six years. She just loves being around horses and the personal challenge that riding presents.

‘After sitting my A Levels I moved to Newmarket to ride out in the mornings and exercise the horses with other jockeys,’ she explains. ‘To get my race riding and fitness to where it needed to be, I needed to ride as often as possible.

Khadijah Mellah riding her horse
‘For someone like me to have won a horse race and made history for British female Muslims feels very important’ (Picture: Mark Cranham/focusonracing.com)

‘Riding a racehorse is quite different from riding the horses at Ebony Horse Club, racehorses are athletes so are built differently, they’re fitter and stronger than the horses I had been used to riding so I had to learn a new technique.’

On top of this, Khadijah also had to complete rigorous fitness tests to make sure she was up for competing. She had regular assesments and tough training sessions to get her to where she needed to be. But she knows it was worth it.

‘Being able to prove that you can achieve your dreams and change perceptions is important to me, so this has been great motivation to continue making a change and inspire other women,’ says Khadijah.

‘When I’m riding, I feel like I can accomplish anything, and I think all young women and girls should be able to feel like that.

‘Riding also gives you this amazing sense of independence because you learn how to care for another being and how to be responsible. Horses are amazing, gentle animals so they can bring a lot of joy to life.’

Ahead of the release of the documentary Khadijah had a special meeting with her hero, Egyptian runner and founder of online community Surviving Hijab, Manal Rostom.

Like Khadijah, Manal, is using sport to break down social stereotypes and empower young women and hijab wearers to follow their dreams.

The documentary explores the benefits that Ebony Horse Club is providing for young people in Brixton, and culminates at the Qatar Goodwood Festival as Khadijah takes her place among a field of 11 other competitors in the Magnolia Cup.

The film, directed by Tom Bolwell and Mattia Reiniger and produced by Oli Bell and his brother Philip Bell, will be released in early autumn.

For now, Khadijah is focusing on starting her university degree, but she wants to keep riding and hopes to one day get her jockey’s license.

‘I also hope I can continue to push myself to try new things, broaden my horizons and inspire other women.’


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