IN THE SADDLE
As the Pony Club celebrates its 90th birthday, Chipping Pony Club reflects on why it continues to thrive ensuring its members’ experience all it has to offer, writes Paula Kopydlowski. Photography: Blueski Photography, the Conlon family and the Kopydlowski family
Not many riders get the chance to gallop their ponies on Jockey Club turf. It truly is an experience of a lifetime and a great way to sample what it would be like to become a jockey. This is one of the many reasons why membership of the Pony Club is good for providing opportunities.
In conjunction with the Pony Racing Authority, the Pony Club offer the chance for members to attend a Pony Racing Day, which are held throughout the country. This was recently held at Haydock Park and seven Chipping Pony Club members could not resist donning their ‘jockey silks’ to try their hand at racing their pony.
An entire day was spent at Haydock, starting with activities in the morning which included riding the mechanical equicisor with retired professional jockey Franny Norton. Some core strength exercises followed, which demonstrated the importance of rider fitness as well as the fitness of the pony, then a tour of the jockey changing rooms, weighing room, a peep at where stewards enquiries are held and declarations to race are made.
Groups went out onto the course to look at the huge starting stalls where only thoroughbred racehorses, who race on the flat, start from. Members had the chance to get up close to the enormous national hunt fences, with standard fences measuring 5’6” tall (1.67m) and are very wide!
A course walk and debrief then followed. All Chipping’s members were going to be racing over four furlongs (half a mile) up the home straight, in front of the stands and past the finish post.
Finally, time to change and weigh out (whilst holding your saddle). After saddling up the ponies in the saddling boxes, the young jockeys then met their pony in the parade ring and waited for the bell to ring, to signal the ‘leg up’. After a tack safety check, jockeys walked or trotted down to the start, went under starters orders and were off!
With a race card produced to help identify their ‘favourite’, spectators enjoyed a free day of racing on what was a beautiful, sunny day at this idyllic racecourse. The commentator was armed with handy information and funny anecdotes about all the riders and ponies to entertain the crowds of families, friends and supporters.
All the members had a very enjoyable, memorable day. The beaming smiles said it all.
Chipping Pony Club is also celebrating a mounted games team success as their hard work, training and skills won them fourth place in the areas at Towneley Hall and a qualification for the nationals!
If you are interested in joining, please contact Chipping’s District Commissioner Joanne Conlon 07739 687972 or email firstname.lastname@example.org