Early Days

The Mysterious Pony Club

The United States Pony Club, Inc….an organization cloaked in mystery, shadowed by intrigue, comparable to other notable secret societies and organizations exposed in class B- movies, such as

Priory of Sion
Illuminati and Freemasons
Skulls and Bones Yale Society

Yes, indeed, we have -in our nation- a reclusive and exclusive organization of….little girls and horses.
They even have a elite logo:

 
Intriguing.  
Due to happenstance/fate/kismet/the four winds/whatever, I grew up doing the fairly uncommon discipline (for Southern California) of saddleseat. My not-horsey-whatsoever parents signed me up for lessons at the barn that happened to be closest to our house – an American Saddlebred showing and training barn. As such, I did not even hear about Pony Club until I got to college. I thought it was some small local club out in Arizona that one of my barn-mates participated in. 
Slowly I came to realize the breadth and depth of this club – a national (possibly even international?) syndicate of locally based charter organizations. Like the mafia. 
Information trickled in. A mention here, a comment there. Whispers in the wind…
I keep my ear to the ground and learn that there are levels. Policies. Ratings. Rules. And by-invitation-only rallys. This is getting more secret-society-ish by the second.
Okay, okay, they have a website…but they pull the classic trick of hiding information by providing too much information. Exactly what are the levels and what do they mean? How does one get invited to a rally? The answers are either not on the site or are buried in the pages upon pages of politically correct mumbo-jumbo about youth equine education. I will continue to research…
Also, there seems to be some sort of extremely complex executive hierarchy – with Commissioners, Supervisors and other fancy titles. From what I can gather there are alpha-numeric rating systems, with D being the lowest level like academic grading. But there also are silver and bronze levels. And “H” levels. But there also seem to be quizzes and grades – like a private horse academy. It’s getting more complicated by the minute!
The idea of a systematic, organized, community-based education system for young people about horses is quite exciting – something I absolutely would have loved to be involved in when I was younger. My barn had summer camps for kids and I learned about how to ride and how to tack up. But there were definitely horse-care stumbling blocks along the way that only Google could help me with (what is a sheath? how do I clean it?) back when I was 12 years old. 
Plus, I’m the kind of person who wants an A+ in everything. Including in horses. ;)  Another reason the Pony Club is so interesting. Its the only mechanism I’ve heard of that tests general horsemanship knowledge. Fabulous concept.
I’ll continue to research and report back. 

7 comments on “The Mysterious Pony Club

  1. I, too, never heard of Pony Club (or even 4H if you can believe it!) until I was in college. Kids that actually do more than just take weekly lessons?? What?!

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  2. Indeed! 4H I don't fully comprehend either. Pigs and goats and horses as “project” animals and showing at a fair. And they're required to attend meetings. That about sums up my knowledge of 4H.

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  3. This made me laugh so much! I never thought of how PC appeared from the 'outside' (other than friends laughing at the name 'Pony Club'). I guess it's like Girl Scouts on horseback?

    I am an ex-PC rider – I did my B and H certificates but sadly went to uni and couldn't get it together quickly enough afterwards before I was too old to sit my A. I loved PC and I'm sure you would have too. I learnt so much and got to take part in dozens of team competitions all around the country and even two international events (mounted games in Australia). We had camps and clinics and I met so many friends that I'm still in touch with today.

    PC is indeed international – it started in the UK and spread around the world. There is even a competitive team event that the Pacific-rim PC countries (USA, Canada, NZ, Australia, Hong Kong, sometimes Japan) take part in every two years called the Inter-Pacific exchange. Sometimes there are other international competitions, especially for mounted games. Each country also has national championships for many of the disciplines (dressage, eventing, SJ, Quiz etc).

    The levels (aka standards of proficiency aka ratings, or certificates, as we call them) are a series of exams/tests of specific, increasing difficulty. In NZ our ratings are D , D+, C, C+, B then A and H. The D-B exams cover both riding and horse management, but at the highest level they are split as there is so much to cover. H is the horse mastership exam/certificate, and A is the riding (though you can't hold your A without also holding your H).

    From what I understand of USA PC the ratings are D1, D2, D3, C1 and C2, then they split into horse management (HB then H or H-A, depending on what riding cert you hold) and riding (C3, B and A). There's lots of information about what is required at each level in the Resources section of the US PC website.

    US PC also has the Horsemasters program, which is like Pony Club for adults, and that's where the bronze and silver awards come in.

    Rallys here are non-competitive training sessions (we also have competitive intra- or inter-club events, but we don't call them rallies), but US rallies are competitive events. You would need to be a PC member to ride at a rally, but if you got in touch with your local club you might be able to go and watch one.

    Can't wait to hear what else you find out! I love hearing about the 'overseas' Pony Clubs and seeing how they're different (and what good ideas I can use for our PC here!).

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  4. Wow … maybe I should've just written a blog post on it … sorry!

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing so many of the precious secrets! ;) Loved your reply and your blog post. Hehehe sounds like a lot of fun and a really healthy way to promote well-rounded horsepeople.

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  6. I too was a PC-er in my youth. Having my horses at home (rad, but lonely) and non-horsey parents, meant that PC was a great way for me to balance my weekly lessons with lots of horse management stuff. Plus it was a good social outlet with other horse crazy kids. And the big cool high school girls were SOOOOOOOO impressive at a 12 year old..

    I absolutely LOVED the structure of PC and felt like I was a much more compassionate and educated owner because of it. But, like anything I've become more flexible as an adult on some of the golden pony club rules. For example, I don't wrap my horses hoof to hock in baffled cotton and flannel wraps for shipping. (although I do still prefer a standing wrap and bell boots to velrco-ed on “shipping boots”).

    I guess some things are hard to let go of :)

    In my region our clubs are pretty heavy on Eventing, and although we had a few hunter jumper girls in our ranks, there wasn't a lot of diversity in disciplines. Some of that was ideological and some was just birds-of-a-feather stuff….

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