Hey guys, hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the beautiful weather. Growing up with horses, Pony Club was a huge part of my life. It taught me that there is a lot more to being a good horseperson than just riding. I’ve come to learn that almost anyone can ride but to actually be a horseman you need a deep foundation of knowledge, a willingness to learn and a strong drive to do better in and out of the saddle. You have to truly understand the language of the horse.
Pony Club was founded in England in 1929. The objectives were and are, as follows; might I add, I found this on google so don’t try to catch me out for plagiarising- I’m giving you a heads up!
- to encourage young people to ride and to learn to enjoy all kinds of sport connected with horses and riding
- to give instruction in riding and horsemastership and to educate Members to look after and to take proper care of their animal
- to promote the highest ideals of sportsmanship, citizenship and loyalty to create strength of character and self-discipline
The Pony Club promotes the education of young people through the provision of instruction and examination in riding, horse care and animal welfare. At camps and rallies children are taught best practices in a fun and safe environment.
I joined Pony Club not long after I started riding, maybe a year or two? I remember feeling quite intimidated by the older, more knowledgeable girls, wondering how they knew so much information. Our region offered literally everything going from Quiz, Rally to Tetrathlon and Prince Phillip Games. I think because I loved horses I wanted to do everything I could while learning as much as possible, I participated in everything. I want to shout out to all the volunteers that give of their time for this organization, wherever in the world you might be. A lot of these people no longer have children participating; maybe they did at one time but not anymore. Some are professionals that give up a few hours to do a clinic. These volunteers are the backbone to this organization, without them Pony Club would not exist so, Thank You!
Writing this I’ve started thinking about all the opportunities I’ve had because of Pony Club, meeting elite riders, attending clinics from top professionals, traveling around Canada to participate in events and meeting an amazing net work of people. Things that I wouldn’t have been able to do alone. I’d now like to talk a little bit about Testing. Most Pony Clubbers dread Testing yet we do it anyways, it’s a bit different than going to a competition and much more rewarding at the end.
Below you will see photos from of a Polo clinic and Regional Prince Phillio Games
Becoming an A Level Pony Clubber was something I never thought I would achieve. Especially back when I was testing for my C level. It seemed so far away, basically impossible. Year by year I worked away preparing myself and my mount, at the time, for testing (while also competing). I was so fortunate to be part of a horse community that would lend a hand whenever needed. A week before both my B & B2 test my horse came in with some sort of injury making him unfit to ride. Same day as the injury I had a horse lined up to use. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by incredible people who want to see young people push forward. It was a weird feeling to have passed my B2 and think that I would try for my A. For those of you that don’t know about Pony Club testing, at the higher level, the candidate must do quite a few things. When I did my A in 2016, this was the breakdown of requirements:
Written Test- basically like any test you would get in school but, obviously all about your horse knowledge. I remember for mine I was incredibly ill; Grandma drove me an hour to the location of the test because I wasn’t fit enough. This is done prior to the actual test. If you’re not successful here you cannot move forwards.
Stable Management- this is a one on one oral test, run through a few topics with one tester then move on to another. There are quite a few different topics and the candidate must be knowledgeable in all of them. Things like conformation & soundness, first-aid, stable construction, feeding, tack, conditioning and foot & shoeing to name a few.
Lunging- two parts to this. Lunge an unknown horse and teach a student to lunge. If you’re sufficient at lunging then lunging an unknown horse isn’t too bad but, teaching someone to lunge can be a struggle in a testing situation.
Teaching- a week or so prior to testing, you receive your teaching topic. In this time you will come up with a written lesson plan that will be handed in and you have time to practice teaching your lesson. On the day you will get 2-4 riders possibly on horses they haven’t ridden and possibly 20 minutes to get through your lesson plan. You must do an introduction of yourself and the lesson, talk to each student to gain a bit of background on the rider and their mount. Then you want to crack on with the lesson. Make sure you have the students change the rein, apparently some candidates have failed before because of this. You should also state to the testers that the riders and horses have warmed up prior to the lesson so you do not waste time doing that. There is only a short amount of time given so you must utilize it efficiently. At the end you want to bring all the riders into the middle, address each rider as to what they did well and where they can improve and then thank them for their time.
Riding- This is broken up into a few different sections. After the ride you must discuss with the testers how you felt your warm up went and what you thought of the ride. The testers will then discuss the test itself with you.
Flat ride- At the A level you can either ride the test provided by PC or you can use a test of choice as long as it has all the required movements. After the discussion with the testers, candidates will switch horses, ride them for around 15 minutes again, discussing your ride and what you were trying to accomplish.
Gymnastic-for every level below A there is a set line that everyone does, with and without stirrups. At the A level we had to have picked a gymnastic line that would help improve our horse getting it ready to jump a course. We also had to set it up (with a tape measure, you must be accurate for PC!) and provide a diagram with distances and an explanation.
Show Jumping – pretty explanatory. Jump a course, hopefully making it look effortless then, talk about it. Like the flat ride you will then switch horses, the course you jump on the ‘unknown’ horse will be lower and shorter.
Cross Country – the tester will decide on a short course of fences and without walking them you’ll set off to jump. Here they want to see a cross country pace, the ability to move your horse forward and bring it back when necessary.
The first time I attempted my A level I failed the flat ride, first time I had failed at testing. I was pretty upset at the time but, looking back, the test my horse and I rode that day was just not good enough. Now at a competition you get a bad mark if you do a bad test and move on. With Pony Club you’ll fail and I think this is where some kids don’t want to continue and get discouraged. Obviously no one wants to fail and the testers don’t want to fail the candidates but if on that particular day you can’t perform in front of the testers their isn’t much they can do. Happy to say I passed on my second attempt. I’d also like to mention that a huge part of testing is turn out. A candidate must be able to turn out a well-groomed and plated up horse, tack must fit, be clean and in good condition. Rider must also be dressed in competition attire and look immaculate.
For anyone who believes that Pony Club is a fantastic organization there are ways to help out. For me I became a tester as well as, a clinician when asked. I had the amazing opportunity to fly to Manitoba (I live in Ontario) to teach a week of Pony Club camp a few summers ago, I really enjoyed that experience. Writing this got me thinking how I miss teaching, if anyone is ever in need of a clinician don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’ve had lots of practice!
I believe it is important to give back to an organization that gave so much to me.
In short, I wouldn’t know or have had half of my experiences without Pony Club. To any young rider that loves horses and just can’t get enough, find out where your nearest branch is. I highly recommend that parents enrol their child in this organization, even if you do not own a pony. It’s sad to see young riders only interested in winning ribbons and missing out of the basics. Check out their website if you’re interested in getting involved:
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