Pony Club aims to introduce our riders to a variety of equestrian disciplines. Branch members receive instruction in dressage, equitation, show jumping and showing at rallies. Clinics are often organised using experts in those, and other disciplines, like mounted games, reining, vaulting, endurance, polocrosse or Le Trec. In our region members may choose to compete at the multi-disciplinary Inter-branch and Inter-regional horse shows in the dressage, equitation, show jumping and showing disciplines.
Show jumping is probably the most familiar and exciting of the equine disciplines for both riders and spectators alike. It tests both the rider’s ability to combine speed with accuracy, and the horse’s athletic ability and agility. Show jumping courses are made up of a series of numbered fences within an enclosed arena. Fences consist of upright stands with horizontal wooden poles balanced on ‘cups.’ The fences often have brightly coloured fillers, and may vary in design and width. The course has to be jumped in sequence, within a given time limit.
Riders are given the chance to ‘walk’ the course on foot, along with an instructor or parent, prior to the commencement of the show jumping class. The start poles are flagged, just like all the fences, to indicate the direction which the rider should follow. The white flag should be on your left and the red on your right. The competitor begins the round once the bell or whistle has sounded by going through the start poles and heading towards jump number one.
Penalties are given if you knock fences down, if your pony refuses or stops at a jump. All competitors who get a ‘clear round’ without penalties, compete in a timed jump-off over a shortened course. The rider who completes the course in the fastest time, with the least penalties is the winner!
Mounted Pony Club Games is a team competition played by members all around the world. Teams consist of five riders and five ponies (and some horses that have the right temperament and agility to compete!) Only four rider-pony combinations participate in each game. This gives ponies, and riders, a chance to catch their breaths every now and then, by sitting out one race. All of the Games are variations on the relay race. Some require the riders and ponies to run a zigzag course in and out a series of upright bending poles from one end of the playing field to the other where they hand a baton to the next rider on the team. Some races require riders to vault off of and onto their ponies. Others require riders to drop objects such as socks and vegetables into buckets (and pray they don't bounce out again!) Some races require that the rider picks up objects with another object, like a wooden sword.
Teams are taught the games and skills required by coaches and by more experienced players in their branch or region. Mounted Games are one of the few riding competitions in which the members of the team must work together as they perfect their hand-over’s, and develop true sportsmanship as they rotate riders through the races (remember, only four out of five riders in each race) and share the limelight. Riders develop remarkable skills in the areas of timing; sense of space, speed and direction; co-ordination; agility and horsemanship. They also laugh a good deal - the only way to deal with mistakes when everyone makes some!
This discipline is unique in that it assesses the participant’s ability to ride his/her own horse/pony, and at the higher levels, unknown mounts too. Equitation tests are ridden in a show jumping arena and the same tack and turnout rules apply. Equitation tests at the Welcome and Novice levels consist of two parts. Part 1 consists of a sequence of flat work exercises and some jumping movements. Part 2 is a short show jumping course. Judges adjudicate in pairs, each awarding a score out of 20 for each part. The rider’s seat and position are assessed, as well as his/her ability to perform the movements accurately, whilst maintaining a rhythm. The rider should demonstrate the ability to plan the order of prescribed movements precisely and in a flowing sequence. Intermediate and Open tests consist of two parts on one’s own mount, and the next part on the horse of another competitor. A fourth part may be included to confirm final placings.
No matter which horse sport you would like to try out or participate in, you will have a much greater chance of success if your pony is well-schooled and responsive. Dressage is the foundation of all horse disciplines because it aims to make horses and ponies physically and mentally capable of achieving what the rider asks of him or her. Dressage trains riders to communicate more effectively and efficiently with their mounts so that they work together as partners.
Dressage is a graduated system of training of the horse or pony. The pony is trained to walk, trot and canter with his hindquarters underneath him for impulsion and in a good rhythm, which makes for a more comfortable ride! He will learn to halt squarely on command and make well-balanced circles, figures of eight and serpentines. He will learn to lengthen or shorten his stride. Later he will learn to do turns on the hindquarters, shoulder in, flying changes of canter lead, and even to ‘skip’.
Mounts which are supple, balanced, correctly muscled and obedient to their rider’s commands make better show jumpers. Knowing that you can ask your pony to shorten or lengthen his strides when you need to, will make riding a track easier. Even if you are only going on an out-ride, it is good to know that your horse will be obedient to you no matter what scary something he encounters! And if he can reverse, and move his hindquarters over on command, it will make opening and closing a gate without getting off, so much easier.
Dressage as a competitive sport is ridden in a dressage arena. Pony riders will ride in an arena 20m by 40m, while horse riders (juniors or adults) ride in an arena measuring 20m by 60m. The dressage test is a set of movements carried out in sequence, as accurately as you can. A number of lettered markers are placed around the arena, which you will use to help you know where to start each movement as specified in the test. An instructor or parent may ‘call‘out the dressage test as you ride - this acts as a handy reminder when your nerves cause you to forget which movement comes next! The dressage horse, when properly muscled and able to show active and elevated paces, is the kind of horse that will make people want to stop and watch him no matter where they see him. He will have presence, and, I think, a very proud owner - you!
This discipline, consisting of three phases of competition, is a complete test of the all-round performance of the horse / pony and rider – and is also known as horse trials or 3-phase. The 3 phases are dressage, show-jumping and cross country, which may take place over one, two or three days. The dressage test is to demonstrate that the horse is supple, obedient and calm; the show-jumping phase proves his agility and carefulness over fences; while the cross country phase shows the horse’s boldness, speed and stamina.
Eventing also requires all-round horsemanship on the part of the rider, who has to show her discipline and accuracy in the dressage, technical ability in the show-jumping, and courage and confidence in her horse in the cross-country phase. In the dressage phase, penalties are given on your dressage test. So unlike in the discipline of dressage where you are aiming for high scores, in Eventing you want a low score!
Show-jumping is scored normally, with penalties given for knocking a pole down, refusing a jump, exceeding the time allowed, etc. The cross-country phase involves completing a track of solid and/or water and/or natural jumps while covering a distance of around 1.5 to 2.5 km through the country, within a set time. Penalties are given for refusals, falls or run-outs, and time penalties will also be incurred if you exceed the time allowed.
At the end of the competition, all the penalties incurred across the three phases will be added together, and the horse and rider combination with the lowest total are declared the winners! A horse and rider combination who are true and mutually trusting partners will enjoy this discipline immensely, and there is good reason why most riders would agree that it is probably the most adrenalin-boosting competition around!
Quizzes are arranged to encourage pony club members to improve their knowledge of horsemanship and of various pony club activities. Competitions may be run at rallies, camps or events at branch or regional level, and test both theoretical understanding and practical know-how.
In a quiz pony club members compete as teams ...without horses or ponies. Since teams consist of four or five members of varying ages and at different levels of experience and knowledge, some questions are asked individually, others after team discussion. The quiz master asks questions in line with various efficiency test levels to challenge participants, but inspire them to continue learning. Individual and team scores go toward each team's total.
Contestants have loads of fun, meet members of other branches …and inadvertently prepare for their achievement badges and efficiency tests!