This week, one 18-year-old, hijab-wearing Brit made headlines across the globe for riding victorious to the finish line of the Magnolia Cup at Goodwood, a charity event in support of Wellbeing Of Women. According to various news sources, Khadijah Mellah from Peckham, a district of South London, England, rode her mount Haverland ahead of 11 other female jockeys, coming in first place and making headlines as the race’s youngest rider this year, as well as England’s first hijabi jockey to ever compete in a major race.
As reported by Reuters, the young woman had never sat on a racehorse until April this year, and began riding seven years ago when she was just 11. This year’s Magnolia Cup saw her competing against very experienced riders including former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton and presenter Vogue Williams. Speaking to the news site, Mellah pointed out how “crazy” it was that she was the first female Muslim jockey in British competitive horse racing.
“There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them ‘not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams’ […] I am thrilled that I am part of a shift in social understanding of what women can achieve and what they can be good at […] I want to be a role model to anyone who wants to do something that they wouldn’t initially believe was in their comfort zone and allow people to follow their aspirations,” she said in a statement.
In an interview with The Guardian last month, Mellah explained that she first discovered her passion in horse riding when her mother saw a leaflet at a local mosque for the Ebony Horse Club. “She said ‘there’s a riding club in Brixton’. I was like, yeah, Mum, sure. Absolutely no way. Oh my God, there is!”