Since my wife, Margaret (left with her horse, Blue) won't touch a computer, this is her page. She was very active in the Elkridge-Harford Pony Club, serving in various capacities constantly. She is also the horse nut (I only pay for & fix things for them, generally). My children all have belonged to the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Pony Club located in Harford County, Maryland, USA. My youngest joined the Louisville, KY Pony Club for a year after we moved to Kentucky.
Pony Club started as a way of teaching young riders how to become professional horseman in England over a century ago. It has grown into an international organization, present in 20 countries around the world. There is no official age to start at that I'm aware of -- my daughter began participating in a few things at 5, but usually children have to be 7 or 8 before they can become rated.
Ratings are a way of keeping track of what skills have been mastered. Within 6 months to a year, the new Pony Clubber should go from an Unrated status to the first level, a D1. D1's can tack up their pony's with some assistance, control them at a walk & trot, take basic care of a pony. The ratings then advance to a D2, D3 and then C1 through C3. C3's are not the highest level of Pony Club, but by this point the kids know almost much as many professional horseman. There is a B level, an HA and -- the pinnacle of the ratings system -- is the coveted A rating.
Starting at the B level, the Pony Clubber is spending serious time with veterinarians & blacksmiths. At the A rating, the Pony Clubber has mastered skills in horse management that - in my opinion - would qualify them through the first couple of years of vet school. At 21, the Pony Clubber is no longer eligible to be a regular member.
Some of the activities that my children participate in through Pony Club are:
Lessons of all kinds at reduced rates. Show Jumping, Dressage, basic riding skills, Polo and more.
Rallies where they compete against other Pony Clubbers Show Jumping, Games, Know Down, Combined Training and more. Riding ability is only one of the areas in which the members compete. Each Rally has a written test and each team is graded on their Horse or Stable Management skills.
Games are a dozen or so games that stress riding skills and team play. The games are often just like you'd play at any kid party, but they do them all from the back of a pony. I've seen a 12 year old galloping along balancing an egg in a spoon. It's amazing and fun to watch. They're broken into Novice, Junior, Senior & International teams of 4 to 5 members each. Advanced teams have only 2 players, a special class where the ponyclubber must be 14 -16 years of age with a C or above rating.
Know Down is horse trivia. Teams of about 4 members compete against others. This is an unmounted rally - the only one I'm aware of that our club does.
Tetrathion consists of swimming (just the Pony Clubber! No ponies allowed in the pool!) running, show jumping, shooting a target with an air pistol and a written test.
Fox Hunting is more accurately Fox Chasing in our area (here in Kentucky, they generally chase coyotes). The hounds attempt to catch the fox, but they rarely do and it spoils the day for many if that happens (especially the fox!). Unless a fox is injured, it has no trouble escaping the hounds. Most of the fox around the club in Maryland give the hounds a good run before 'going to ground' and ending the chase. One vixen (a female fox) near the Club will take the hounds twice around a large section and then go to ground just about where they found her. If she's not in the mood, she just goes to ground and there is no run. A 'run' is the chase which can be as fast paced as the rider wants. Slower groups may only 'Hill-Top' or watch the action from afar while others will stay up front and jump all the obstacles they can find.
Pony Club is a completely volunteer organization. The dues paid for the year mostly go towards paying insurance and are minimal. Lessons are often free or given at greatly reduced rates by other Pony Clubbers, graduates or horse professionals. Rallies are run by volunteers mostly pulled from the ranks of the parents. Funds are raised by holding various events such as Horse Shows. Each Club has broad guidelines to which it must adhere, but there is plenty of latitude for the area's conditions and interests.
It's a great organization and I was proud to see my children working their way through the ranks. James left at age 18, a C2. Brandon left as a D2 at 15 - he just played polo, games & liked to hunt, but had no interest in the technical aspects. Erin was a C2 at the age of 15. She likes games, eventing, hunting & Know-Down. One of the nicest things about Pony Club is that it allows the kids to try many horse related activities without a huge investment of either time or money. If they find a real interest, they can pursue it into the professional ranks - and many do just that.
Elkridge-Harford Pony Club
United States Pony Club National Office(USPC)
The National Office's Phone number is: 606-254-7669 or Fax: 606-233-4652