Many children dream of learning to ride a horse. One of the best ways to enter the sport at a young age is to join the Pony Club, an international youth organisation that started in the United Kingdom in the late 1920’s.
Words and images by Andrea Abbott
Each member pledges “to stand for the best in sportsmanship as well as in horsemanship, to compete for the enjoyment of the game well played and take winning or losing in my stride, remembering that without good manners and good temper, sport loses its cause for being. I shall treat my horse with consideration.” So it’s not just about learning to ride but also about developing self-esteem, character, confidence, discipline, and leadership skills.
The South African Pony Club has branches throughout the country. District Commissioner of the Karkloof-Howick branch in KZN, Gill Spells says that members range in age from about six to 25 and that not only girls dream of riding horses. “Lots of our members are boys.” She adds that equestrianism is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete equally.
Members need to own or have access to a pony through sharing or borrowing one. In cases where that’s not possible, there are Pony Club centres at riding schools where horses are available.
Typically, Pony Clubs host monthly rallies at which members participate in the whole range of horse related activities. There are also annual Interbranch Events at which pony clubs compete against one another. Some branches arrange Pony Camps at suitable venues such as Buffelsbosch Equestrian Centre in the KZN Midlands. “We had such fun!” enthused Karkloof-Howick club member, 13 year old Drew Munro after a recent camp there. Adds D.C. Gill, “The weather was terrible – cold and wet – but no one complained. And we banned cell phones. Everyone actually spoke to each other!”
http://www.ponyclubgauteng.co.za Gauteng and Limpopo Branch
http://kznpc.co.za KZN Branch
http://www.ponyclubwc.co.za Western Cape