From Racing to School to Racing Groom in under 12 months: the inspiring story of Meg Lyth

This time last year, Meg Lyth was like countless other 15-year-olds facing the end of her GCSEs and unsure of what to do with her future. She loved sport and a career working in a related industry, perhaps as a PE teacher, was high on her agenda. Meg also loved horses, having ridden since she was three and was an active member of the local Pony Club on the Isle of Wight, where she lived with her parents Mark and Carole. While she was aware of racing, the idea of a possible career in the industry was not yet a consideration.

“We watched the Grand National at home every year and I always liked the idea of Pony Racing, but whenever it was planned on our small track on the island, it seemed to get cancelled,” explained Meg.

It was then that the Lyths received an email from the Pony Club offering Meg the chance to attend a Racing to School event at Sandown in February 2018, as part of our Riders’ Programme. This activity aims to encourage young people who already ride and/or have an interest in another equine discipline to consider racing and thoroughbred breeding as a possible career route.

This seemed like a unique opportunity to find out more about what the racing industry could offer, and Meg’s parents got in touch to book a place. The event at Sandown (in Surrey not the beach town on the Isle of Wight!) was run by Ollie McPhail, Racing to School’s Programme Manager, with support from Michelle Douglas from the BHA’s Careers in Racing team. As part of the event Meg, her mother Carole and 19 other Pony Club members and parents were giving a behind the scenes look at the racecourse before racing and then a chance to get fully involved in the day itself. Crucially, the programme also gives clear information and practical advice on how to progress an initial interest towards a possible career in the industry.

The new Riders’ Programme information booklet that will be given out at all Riders’ Programme events in 2019

“Meg and Carole had a brilliant time at Sandown,” explains Meg’s father Mark. “They got to see so much; she even got to speak to Bryony Frost about what it’s like being a jockey – when she came back that is all she wanted to do.

“We had been given all the information that we needed and within days we had submitted an application to the British Racing School.”

Mark then had a quick reality check as might any parent. “It scared me to be honest, the idea of my daughter leaving home, and I thought ‘please reject her’. But they didn’t and we were invited up to Newmarket and I have to say I was bowled over by the facilities at the BRS – the more I found out the more comfortable I was.”

Meg had her interview, was offered a place the very next day and started her nine-week course in October 2018.

“It was the best nine weeks of my life!” explained Meg about her time at the BRS. “I made so many friends, learnt so much and I couldn’t have been happier.”

Meg learning the ropes during her course at the British Racing School

Having now completed her course, Meg has started her apprenticeship at Emma Lavelle’s yard in Marlborough. As she is 16, and everyone is required by law to stay in education until they are 18, this a fantastic way that racing can offer a route to a rewarding career for people who love horses and do not want to stay in traditional education. You only need to speak to her for five minutes to understand that this was the right path for Meg and how delighted she is with her new career.

We are delighted for Meg and her story highlights exactly why, with kind support from The Racing Foundation, we set up and expanded the Riders’ Programme to support young people who have an interest in riding and taking it further when thinking about their working lives. Now in its third year, we are excited that in 2019 we will be able to run at least 60 of these activity days across the country and, with further support secured from The Racing Foundation, we have committed to growing the programme even more over the next three years.

To give Meg the final word: “I would not be where I am today without the Racing to School event at Sandown.”

Meg is now really enjoying being part of Emma Lavelle’s Bonita Racing Stables