Pony club is an equestrian organization designed for young people to engage in horseback riding, grooming and showing. Pony Club in the United States focuses on training children about grooming, flat riding and jumps courses. Pony club is for young people, aged 25 and below.
Pony Club originated as a youth organization in Great Britain. The Institute of the Horse decided to expand its offering to young people to teach children how to learn about riding. The young people were given opportunities to ride, show and groom. Since that time, Pony Clubs began to expand across the world. The Pony Club in the United States began in 1954. There is a national governing body, but most Pony Clubs are established through local chapters.
The young people involved in pony club practice a number of different equestrian disciplines at the youth level. The disciplines are meant to train young riders for the future, as well as to educate children about the different aspects of equestrian life.
Dressage, often compared to ballet on horseback, involves a series of elegant movements. Dressage is a sport in and of itself, but the practices of dressage can be helpful for a rider in any discipline because it improves the relationship between horse and rider while simultaneously improving the flexion, suppleness, responsive nature and elegance of the horse.
Eventing is an equestrian discipline in which riders take part in three separate components of one competition. The three phases include a dressage phase, a cross-country phase and finally a show jumping section. Eventing shows the range of the horse’s skill and the rider’s abilities across a wide spectrum.
Foxhunting, as it is still practiced catch and release in the United States, is available through pony clubs to young people. Hunter paces and hunter trials begin to introduce young people to the sport of foxhunting.
Mounted games are of particular interest to young people. There are a variety of games played across different pony clubs. Mounted games are intended to increase skill and confidence in the young people.
Quiz bowl is a trivia bowl in which young horse enthusiasts compete in equestrian knowledge. The quiz questions cover many different areas of horse life, including care and grooming, health, hunting, tack and conformation. Quiz bowls provide an opportunity for children to study different aspects of equestrianism and showcase that knowledge.
Polocrosse is a mounted game that is a combination of polo and lacrosse. The sticks are netted, like in lacrosse, and teams attempt to pass the ball downfield and score on the opposing team. Polocrosse, like other mounted games, improves riding skill in a natural, fun environment and promotes the unity team sports provide for young people.
Show jumping competitions help young people learn the finer equestrian disciplines associated with hunter jumping. Young people can begin to learn at this level, to eventually move on in to higher levels with the sport or to simply increase riding skills.
Tetrathlon is a four-part competition, one of which takes place on horseback. The competitors must swim, run participate in show jumping and then shooting. This competition is good for increased athleticism, self-confidence and the equestrian skills associated with show jumping.
Pony clubs are based upon a rating system. All young people in the program are given ratings. This goal-oriented system allows children to move forward in the ratings until they are too old for Pony Club and enter into more competitive realms. Ratings are set up alphanumerically. D-1 is the lowest ranking, followed by D-2, C-1, C-2, HB, C-3, B, H-A and lastly A.
Pony club rankings are established through testing. The disciplines mentioned above make up much of the testing in annual competitions. Pony Club participants are tested both in the field in practical competitions and in general quiz knowledge. This encourages the young people to not only spend time with the horses but also to spend time gleaning knowledge.
Like other youth organizations, Pony Club inspires the youth to become involved in other leadership opportunities. These youth opportunities inspire the Pony Club attendees to be well-rounded individuals dedicated to learning more about equestrianism while giving back their communities.
The Visiting Instructors Program is a program that encourages older members of the pony club to mentor younger members. The Visiting program brings older students to other Pony Clubs to teach instructional classes.
The National Youth Congress is a special honor for Pony Club participants who have achieved the H/B level. The NYC works to train members in leadership and teaches them how to be participants on boards.
The National Youth Board is made up of Pony Club participants in the higher levels. The Youth Board is a governing body over the Pony Club and the organization teaches children to learn about governing bodies. The young advocates also have a degree of control over their own club and are allowed a say so.
The core values of Pony Club represent what the organization stands for and are represented by the letters H-O-R-S-E. The H stands for horsemanship. Horsemanship encompasses healthcare, diet, managing a table, handling and riding a horse properly and having confidence in horses. O stands for organized teamwork. Pony club participants are expected to work as a team in cooperation and communication. They learn leadership and responsibility. They are in mentoring relationships with each other. They compete against one another in a safe, supportive environment. The R stands for respect. Pony Club members respect each other, the land and their horses. The S stands for service and active Pony Club members volunteer and work to support their club. The E stands for education. All Pony Club members learn about all aspects of horsemanship. They are tested on the knowledge and also learn by teaching other about their knowledge.
Pony Club is an important organization for young people who are enthusiastic about horses. Children will have the opportunity to earn how ride and display proper horsemanship. The pony club fosters more than just horse skill and knowledge: by encouraging young people to engage in their communities, build teamwork and learn responsibility, the Pony Club helps to build well-rounded and responsible future community members.