IN THE SADDLE
Within the Pony Club, there are many ridden disciplines to participate in, and the core of Chipping’s ethos is to take every opportunity to try something new, writes Megan Conlon. Photography: Diane Marsden
One of the Pony Club disciplines is mounted games which I describe to my non-horsey friends as ‘relay races on horseback’, with various obstacles to navigate and items to manoeuvre. The age range is from three to 14, which neatly encompasses many different levels of riding experience.
It is a discipline which enables members to start out at novice level and advance all the way to national competitions, such as the Horse of the Year Show or Windsor Horse Show, or even international ones!
Beginners, who are at grass roots level, can still be on a lead rein. Then, as their confidence and ability strengthens, they may join a junior team and compete for their club. If they are successful, they may qualify for the Pony Club Championships.
Over time, they then progress to a senior team and compete in the Prince Phillip Cup. This begins at the area competitions, which are held once a year in all 19 Pony Club Areas around the UK. The winners of these competitions move to the Zone Finals and the winners of those compete at the world-famous Horse of the Year Show.
There are some common races, which feature in many competitions – the simple bending race which involves weaving between poles, the mug race where riders move mugs from one pole to another and the flag race, involving moving flags from one cone to the next, all while maintaining speed and staying on board! At higher levels, new games are introduced, such as a sack race and even one involving a pantomime horse!
Some members specialise in mounted games and have ponies who purely excel in the fast-paced races. The majority, however, have just one pony who does all disciplines at Pony Club. Prince Phillip himself attested that he originally designed the Prince Phillip Cup for ‘ordinary children on ordinary ponies’, so anyone can give it a go!
Over the years, Chipping has been successful within this discipline and have competed at the Zone Finals! This year, we started the season with a handful of riders, who were completely new to the sport and had to be trained from scratch. This was done by one of our members, Sarah Hoare, who is well-versed in mounted games and used that knowledge to coach our team members to be competition-ready. Throughout the Winter League competitions, which took place on (often cold and wet) Friday evenings, the team were able to improve their performance every time, consistently getting higher placings as they went on. We are very much looking forward to entering a team into the area competition where we can put all the hard work into practice.
If you’d like to know more about Pony Club, and in particular Chipping Branch, please contact the District Commissioner Joanne Conlon 01200 445143 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org