by Jodi Spragins and Cyndy Negrey
Click on the question to see the answer. We also recommend downloading a copy of the USPC NewMember Booklet, it's great reading!
1. How do the ratings work?
2. What is a rally?
3. What is horse management?
4. How do I find a horse or pony?
5. What kind of saddle should I buy?
6. If we participate in the mounted meetings and rallies, do I still need my own trainer?
7. How is Pony Club organized?
8. How does all of this happen?
9. Are there any other organizations I should join to complement my RHPC membership?
10. What's the deal with "the Pony Club way"?
11. What are mounted meetings?
12. What are educational meetings?
13. What is Quiz?
14. What are the different Pony Club programs?
15. What style of riding does Pony Club teach?
16. What is dressage?
17. What is combined training or eventing?
18. What is show jumping?
19. What is mounted games?
20. What is tetrathalon?
21. What is vaulting?
22. What is polocrosse?
23. So what's missing from Pony Club? What other English riding disciplines exist?
24. Do we really need our own pony?
25. Do we really need our own trailer?
26. Are there any other requirements of Radnor Hunt Pony Club members?
There are several things that make pony club unique. They can be summarized as follows: (1) riding instruction both in the arena as well as in the open (2) horse management and education, (3) team competition which teaches leadership and independence and (4) rating examinations.
Pony club encourages kids to master learning how to ride and how to take care of their pony. What's unique about the riding part is that pony club kids learn to ride in the open from the earliest age. We are not confined to the ring!
Learning how to take care of your pony or horse is called 'horse management' in pony club lingo. This is an integral part of our program, and very unique to pony club. And we take it seriously. There is A LOT to know. Pony club's reputation for producing competent horse managers is widely recognized around the world. From training regimes, to lungeing, to nutrition, to bandaging and tack care, our kids know how to properly take care of a barnful of horses! A testimony to that is how many of our C and above riders has summer jobs exercising other people's horses and taking care of their barns while they are away on vacation.
Everything comes together at Rallies; this is the pony club form of competition. It turns a traditionally independent endeavor, into a team competition. With the emphasis on TEAM. Having the chance to blend your riding and horse management skills as a team, without any parents help, is what rallies are all about.
Pony Club provides a structured curriculum of both mounted and unmounted skills and knowledge for our kids to follow. Ratings provide a progression for the mastery of these skills. At rallies, the ratings provide a framework by which our kids can compete against kids with similar abilities. The lowest rating is D-1, and the highest rating is A. For experienced riders just starting out in Pony Club, the only rating levels and tests that can be skipped are D-1 and D-2, the rest must be mastered in sequence. Ratings are achieved by performing specific tests against a prescribed standard of proficiency, both mounted and oral, before a recognized Pony Club examiner. As the ratings levels get higher, members are expected to develop the ability to critique their own riding, and articulate a deep knowledge of riding and horse management. Kids have the opportunity to go for their ratings at RHPC from the D1-C2 levels twice a year at rating exams that are offered in fall and spring.
The standards of proficiency for all the ratings are outlined in the Pony Club manuals, as well as the national web site, http://www.ponyclub.org.
The basic balanced position is the cornerstone of the pony club seat. The rider's shoulder, hip and heel are in perfect vertical alignment when riding with a basic balanced position. At the lower level ratings, riders are expected to develop and then at the higher levels, maintain the basic balanced position. Much is written and illustrated about the basic balanced position in the pony club manuals. The basic balanced position can make or break a rider in a rating, so it is very important to understand what the basic balanced position is.
The sequence of ratings is as follows: D-1, D-2, D-3, C-1, C-2, C-3, H-B, B, HA, A
For C-3 and above, ratings are specialized.Candidates choose in which specialty to be tested:Eventing, Dressageor Show Jumping.These rating are offer at the regional level. For more information go to the national web site and search on ‘specialty ratings’.
A rally is a Pony Club competition where teams of Pony Clubbers compete against each other. For many Pony Clubbers, competing in a rally is one of the best things about Pony Club. Except for Quiz and Un-rally, rallies are mounted competitions usually made up of teams of 3-5. All of the team members ride in the competition except one, who acts as the stable manager, helping with all the essential ground work that must be done to support the mounted competitors.
On the day of the rally, parents are not allowed to interact with their children at all. It is up to the team to pull together to take care of all the details and logistics. This is wonderfully liberating for parents and kids, and stimulates teamwork and leadership within the Pony Club teams. In addition to the riding performance of the team members, the rally teams are also judged on horse management.
A great deal of preparation goes into getting ready for a rally, not the least of which is attending mounted practice sessions, often on weekdays after school.
A non-qualifying rally is a one-time rally, with no progressive competition for winners. By contrast, winners at regional qualifying rallies have the opportunity to move on to advanced competitions at Pony Club Championships, which are held in Lexington, Virginia for the eastern half of the United States. Every three years is considered a festival year, in which national championships are held among pony clubbers from all over the country. National championships are hosted in Lexington, KY.
During the day of a Pony Club rally, each team is required to set up a complete and organized tack room and stable (usually using an empty horse trailer or tent) containing all the necessary gear. Saddle racks, bridle racks, first aid, equipment, tack, etc. is all set up in the stable. Everything must be labeled and in proper cleanliness, repair, and condition. Points are taken off for things like dirty tack, and missing required items.
Outside the context of rallies, horse management refers to the general care of horses. There is a lot to know, and the discipline of horse management is just as important as learning to ride. We must have healthy and happy ponies in order to ride! Just as it is with riding, mastering horse management is a lifelong goal - one can never know it all.
Pony Club's emphasis on good horse management makes the Pony Club experience complete - it's not just about riding! We want our kids to know how to take care of their horses responsibly and safely.
Unless you are a professional, you should enlist the help of a trusted horse professional. This should be someone either personally known to you, such as your instructor, or someone with an upstanding reputation and verifiable references. Your child's instructor will be the best judge of the suitability of a mount, and should work together with you and whomever you enlist to help you search for the horse. Even knowledgeable and experienced people work with a professional to find the right horse. It is worth every penny to pay a professional to help you.
Having said that, purchasing a horse takes a lot of legwork, parental involvement and money. Professional advice should be balanced with the family doing their homework. The most significant cost of a horse is not the purchase price - it's the ongoing costs of stabling, feed, veterinary care, trailering, instructors’ fees, training fees, competition fees, tack, etc.
Great care should be taken not to overmount your child. Your child should have the ability to satisfactorily ride the horse at their current ability. It's a bad idea to buy a horse for your child to grow in to. Similarly, a green horse with a green rider is a bad combination. Green horses are appropriate for only the most skilled and experienced riders, typically not pony clubbers.
For children in general, there should be an inverse relationship between the skill and experience of the rider and the horse. An experienced and well-schooled horse is the best choice for D-level kids.
An aggressive child rider does not equate to a skilled rider. A green horse with an aggressive child rider makes for disappointment.
As your child advances, you probably will wish to buy a saddle that is appropriate for the discipline that your child chooses to concentrate on. The saddle must fit the child AND the pony, so it is not wise to buy a saddle for a surprise gift.
Pony Club will hire and schedule instructors and coaches for mounted meetings and rally practices. But most of our members work with instructors individually (or in groups) in addition to these Pony Club sessions.
In addition to the obvious requirements for a good instructor, it's important that your instructor understand and enthusiastically support your membership of Pony Club. Instructors specialize in specific riding disciplines, and it's important to use one that is consistent with your child's interests or goals.
Radnor Hunt Pony Club is led by a District Commissioner (DC) and a Joint District Commissioner, an executive board, and a board. We are part of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of the United States Pony Club (USPC). Pony Club is an international organization with over 10,000 members in the United States. The USPC has its own executive board and we are required to follow the by-laws and rules mandated by this parent organization. Radnor Hunt Pony Club is one of the oldest Pony Club chapters in the United States.
With a BUNCH of volunteer parents and supporters who give their time, talent and money. Pony Club and competitive riding in general demands a lifestyle commitment, requiring a huge amount of overall family time and energy. Parents, this is not a drop-off organization!
Years ago, some thoughtful local people had the foresight and generosity to secure open land for Radnor Hunt Pony Club. This very special gift makes us one of only two clubs in the United States that owns its own grounds. Work-days (scheduled twice a year) are significant volunteer opportunities where we ask everyone to come out to help maintain these precious grounds. Volunteering on work-day seems a small price to pay when you consider that most other clubs have to spend a huge amount of effort and money trying to locate, borrow or rent facilities just to hold a single mounted meeting.
Our wonderful 17 acre facility, situated in a thriving horse community, perpetuated by hard-working and generous parents and supporters, make Radnor Hunt Pony Club members very lucky, indeed.
Yes! United States Pony Club www.ponyclub.org Pony Club is the largest equestrian educational organization in the world. This is where it all begins! The cornerstones of our foundation are education, safety, sportsmanship, stewardship and FUN. Members learn riding and the care of horses through mounted sports. The skills, habits and values instilled through horsemanship will apply to every part of a member’s life. For the more advanced rider, most non-pony club competitions require membership in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and/or the United States Eventing Association (USEA). Membership information is available at the USEF web site, http://www.usef.org and http://www.useventing.com. Locally, the Delaware Valley Combined Training Association http://www.dvcta.org and the Oley Valley Combined Training Association http://www.ovcta.org offer clinics, speakers and competitions which may be of interest. The DVCTA has a special arrangement with RHPC and offers free participation for pony club members in its schooling shows which are held on our grounds.
Pony Club is steeped in tradition and has a long history. As such, over the years, a lot of very wise horse people have decided the best way to provide horse management -- everything from tying the knot on your pony's lead shank to the proper sequence to follow when grooming a horse. These "Pony Club ways" typically have to do with horse management subjects, and rarely are controversial. Pony Club always places huge emphasis on safety. Sometimes there are "other" ways to do something, and we add those techniques to our body of knowledge, recognizing that there is a RIGHT way, a WRONG way and a PONY CLUB way. These Pony Club ways are especially important when attending a rally, rating or answering Quiz questions.
Mounted meetings are scheduled sessions where Pony Clubbers receive group riding instruction. Because our club is so large, there may be several mounted meetings scheduled for different groups at different times.
Educational meetings are unmounted meetings where Pony Clubbers receive group instruction on various horse management subjects. The goal is to help kids get the instructional support required to master the standards of proficiency outlined in the various ratings.
Quiz is an unmounted rally where teams compete against each other on their horse knowledge. It is sort of like Jeopardy for horses. It's a great way to get started with Pony Club, and you don't even have to have a Pony to participate.
14. What are the different Pony Club disciplines?
Official Pony Club disciplines(instruction and/or competition at rallies) are offered in dressage, eventing, show jumping, mounted games, tetrathlon, quiz, vaulting, foxhunting, and polocrosse. Radnor Hunt Pony Club currently does not offer vaulting and polocrosse.
Pony Club teaches English riding using the basic balanced position (BBP). This kind of riding is based on a modified dressage seat and includes riding on the flat (ring riding) jumping, and riding in the open (trail riding and cross-country jumping). This differs from the forward seat (used in Hunter equitation) and the saddle seat (used with gaited horses). While riding on the flat, the basic balanced position rider is upright, with shoulder, hip and heel forming a straight vertical line. At the lower level ratings, riders are expected to develop and then at the higher levels, maintain the basic balanced position
Emphasis on the balanced seat combined with the activities and competitions develops skills in a broad range of riding disciplines - dressage, jumping and combined training (eventing). Not coincidentally, these three equestrian sports compete at the Olympic level.
Dressage is a discipline where the horse performs a series of movements and in a flat arena in a prescribed sequence known as a "test". We are blessed with living near one of the top dressage competitions in the country, Dressage at Devon, held at the Devon horse show grounds in the fall of each year. This is a great educational opportunity for kids and parents to see top-level dressage.
Combined training (also known as eventing) is sometimes referred to as the triathlon of equestrian sports because the horse and rider must complete three phases of competition: dressage, cross country and stadium jumping.
The different levels of competition are Elementary, Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. The lower levels of combined training competitions are called Horse Trials. Higher levels of competition are conducted over two or three days, the ultimate being the three-day event.
We are extremely fortunate to have a recognized horse trial, the Radnor Hunt Horse Trials, held on our own grounds each fall.
Show jumping is jumping a course of fences inside a fenced ring or stadium where the rider's goal is to jump cleanly without knocking rails down, and often for speed. The Devon Horse Show, held each spring, is a venue for top level show jumping. Check the Devon Horse Show schedule before you go, because show jumping is not the only competition held there.
Mounted games are a series of competitive games played on horseback.
Tetrathlon combines a mounted competition with unmounted competition and is comprised of stadium jumping, running, swimming and target-shooting.
Vaulting is like gymnastics on horseback, and is not offered by Radnor Hunt Pony Club.
Polocrosse is like lacrosse on horseback, and is not offered by Radnor Hunt Pony Club.
There are several English riding disciplines that are not offered by Pony Club. In our area, the most significant discipline that is not represented in Pony Club activities is Hunter equitation and competition. The hunter style of riding exists only in the United States, and is not competed at the Olympics or in any other international competition.
Hunter shows are popular in this area, and there are many local hunter shows held at the Radnor Hunt Pony Club grounds. This is because we rent the grounds out to show organizers and it is a source of revenue for us. Some of our Pony Club members participate in Hunter shows, and it is possible to do both. But at the more advanced levels of riding, there usually comes a time when one must choose a specialty. Not many of us have the skills and resources to do it all.
The Devon Horse Show, held each spring, is a venue for top level Hunter competition. Check the schedule before you go, because many other riding competitions are held at the show.
Ownership of a horse or pony is not required for membership, but membership without one can be very difficult and frustrating for the child. Approximately 95% of our members have access to their own mounts. A few of our members have been fortunate enough to borrow mounts, but it would not be wise to count on such an arrangement.
In a word, yes! It is sometimes possible to arrange to share a trailer with another family for a competition, but it is up to each individual family to secure its own transportation. Pony club does not provide this service.
If you make arrangements with another family to trailer your pony, you should recognize the significant burden it places on the family with the trailer. They must set aside additional time (wake up earlier in the morning and get home later at night) in order to pick you up and drop you off. They also typically end up having to clean up the trailer themselves. Add to that the additional variable of possibly having loading problems with your pony. Not to mention the enormous responsibility and liability they are taking on by transporting your pony. Unfortunately, pony club family friendships have been strained over trailering, so proceed with caution!
Children must have a deep commitment to riding, and parents must have a deep commitment to supporting their child's pony club membership.
Kids should be actively riding at least 3 times a week before they join pony club.
Kids should have full access to a suitable mount.
Parents must be willing to be present at most activities, in order to learn and to assist where needed. It is not appropriate to drop your child and pony off.
Families should have access to a trailer to get horse and rider to mounted meetings and practices
Parents should have a willingness to educate themselves about horses and pony club, read rulebooks, etc.
Parents must regularly read and respond to RHPC email messages in order to keep informed about club activities.
Parents must regularly check RHPC web site content in order to keep informed about club activities.
Parents must take on a significant volunteer role within the club. (Examples: grounds maintenance, jump painting, arena set-up, meeting organizer, insurance administrator, photo editor, newsletter editor, club database librarian, lesson coordinator, education coordinator, treasurer, secretary, webmaster, rally organizer, show organizer, paper chase organizer, clinic organizer, horse management judge, team equipment organizer, annual meeting organizer, ratings organizer, outgrown shop, etc.)
If you have gotten this far down you MUST REALLY BE INTERESTED IN PONY CLUB! Call Sandy DiPasqua at 610-357-9768 for your special prize.
Other pony clubs are welcome to use our FAQ's, but please give credit to the Radnor Hunt Pony Club
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