The kids are all about to break up for the summer holidays, if they haven’t already, and there will be thousands of children and young people across West Sussex (and the rest of the UK) who are looking forward to weeks of summer fun with their ponies and horses! A huge part of this for many will be Pony Club; from rallies, to shows, to camp, there will be something for everyone to get involved with!
I remember long, hot days at the Pony Club field over the summer when I was a kid, that began with a bacon sarnie and ended with a portion of chips and an ice cream if I was lucky! It’s such a fun, friendly organisation to be a part of and I only have good memories of my Pony Club days! But, what is the appeal and how to you go about getting involved? Well, read on and I will lay it out for you!
About the Pony Club
The Pony Club is an international voluntary youth organisation, dedicated to encouraging young people to ride and care for horses and ponies, whilst promoting the highest ideals of sportsmanship. The organisation was founded in England in 1929 and has been the starting point for a huge number of high profile equestrian athletes; including William Fox-Pitt, Fiona Bigwood, Harry Meade, Kitty King and Nick Skelton, to name a handful.
Today, it has become an international organisation, with around 345 Branches and 480 Centres in the UK alone. The Pony Club is represented in no less than 27 countries with a worldwide membership exceeding 110,000; this makes it the largest association of young riders in the world.
As a member of the Pony Club, there are so many opportunities to take advantage of in all sorts of different areas of equestrianism. There tends to be a wealth of equestrian knowledge and experience within every branch and the instructors, volunteers and members are, on the whole, very friendly and inclusive. The Pony Club gives children and young people the chance to develop skills, knowledge and confidence, which is useful not only in the equestrian sphere, but that will stand them in good stead for their adult life.
How do I get involved in the Pony Club?
Find your local branch or centre via the Pony Club website and join up! You don’t need to own a pony to be a member, there are plenty of centres where kids can take advantage of all the activities and opportunities on borrowed ponies.
What can you do with the Pony Club?
Well, where do I start? There’s mounted games, show jumping, cross country, dressage, vaulting, tetrathlon; the list goes on. There is something for everyone, no matter what your interest. The best thing to do is to go along to rallies (mounted and non-mounted) and have a go at whatever takes your fancy. There are all sorts of teams you can represent if you so wish.
There’s the Pony Club tests, which aim to improve children’s riding and also their knowledge of horse care and to help them become good horsemen and women as they get older. A number of the tests are now recognised as suitable for direct entry to the British Horse Society (BHS) and British Showjumping (BS) examinations, meaning that young people are able to achieve their professional coaching qualifications via the Pony Club.
And of course, every Pony Clubber’s favourite memory – Pony Club Camp! Each branch or centre will run their own Pony Club Camp each summer, which is great fun for members, with lots of fantastic instruction and experiences, both in and out of the saddle!
Pony Club Camp!
Some of my most treasured memories from my Pony Club days were made at camp! I can remember the excitement beforehand, getting everything ready, packing the lorry and bathing the horses. I was a member of the Mid-Surrey Pony Club and our camp used to be held at Merrist Wood College, which was fabulous as the equestrian facilities are fantastic and we got to sleep in the student dorms, rather than camping out in tents! I always loved the team competition to earn the most points throughout the week and the water fight after the final presentation on the last day was always hilarious – the exhausted but happy feeling of drifting off to sleep on the journey home is hard to describe.
Camp is a wonderful way for your child to learn an awful lot in a short space of time whilst having loads of fun with their pony and their friends. They will benefit from loads of valuable instruction, both ridden and in horse management. They will get to experience lots of different areas of riding with a real chance for improvement throughout the camp, with the opportunity to put all their new skills into practice at the end of the week with the culminating competition day.
Most Pony Clubs will split their camps into 3 groups – mini, junior and senior. The minis and the juniors will attend with their parents’ supervision, and the children generally go home at the end of each day. The attendees of the senior camp tend to stay overnight for a week or so without their parents and will be responsible for the care of their ponies, under the supervision of the instructors and volunteer helpers.
As you can imagine, there is a seemingly endless list of things that you will need to pack for camp – especially if your child is staying away from home for the duration of the camp. Each Pony Club will provide a comprehensive list of equipment that you should bring – most of which you will probably already have at the yard. Our advice is to make sure everything is clearly labelled with your child’s name and the pony’s name as it is so easy for things to get lost or mixed up with someone else’s.
Make sure their hat and body protector fit well, that they are up to the correct standard and that the hat has been tagged by the Pony Club to save instructors having to check it. If you’re not sure about the fit or standard of your child’s safety items, bring them in to us at the store and we will check them for you to make sure they’re safe.
Pony Club Camp will provide your child with wonderful experiences and memories that will last a lifetime! There is so much to do at camp which will teach them horsemanship and team work whilst building their confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone. We hope they have loads of fun over the summer! We’re quite jealous, we’d all love to go back to Pony Club Camp!
If you have things to buy in preparation for camp this year, pop into store with your child’s valid membership number and their camp list to benefit from our 10% discount for Pony Club members – offer valid until the end of August 2018.