This article is part of our “Rookies Horsing Around” series, guest authored by Emily and Sarah Harris of Sisters Horsing Around.
Your fun and educational way to get involved with horses!
Pony Club was first started in England in 1929 by the Institute of the Horse who formed a youth branch of their organization called “The Pony Club.” This was formed to get young people interested in riding, to give them the opportunity to participate in various riding disciplines, and to provide them with a greater level of education about horses than many of the young people would have been able to get on their own.
Since then, Pony Club has expanded around the world, and can be found in 31 countries including Australia (which is home to the largest number of Pony Club members), New Zealand, China, Germany, France, Italy, Countries of Africa, Dubai, Canada, Mexico, and The United States to name a few.
With such a global presence, Pony Club is the largest equestrian educational organization in the world!
Because we live in the United States, we will be sharing with you information from our country’s Pony Club organization. In the US, the Pony Club program is administered through the United States Pony Clubs Inc. also known as USPC. USPC started in 1954 to teach its members riding and the care of horses through mounted sports.
The goal of the Pony Club program is to promote sportsmanship, stewardship and leadership through horsemanship.
The core values for USPC forms the acronym “HORSE” and states:
- Horsemanship with respect to healthcare, nutrition, stable management, handling and riding a mount safely, correctly and with confidence.
- Organized teamwork including cooperation, communication, responsibility, leadership, mentoring, teaching and fostering a supportive yet competitive environment.
- Respect for the horse and self through horsemanship; for land through land conservation; and for others through service and teamwork.
- Service by providing an opportunity for members, parents, and others to support the Pony Club program locally, regionally and nationally through volunteerism.
- Education at an individual pace to achieve personal goals and expand knowledge through teaching others.
With this strong desire to raise up the next generation of well-equipped and prepared horse people, USPC offers membership to everyone.
Whether you are a youth or an adult, have horses or don’t, you are welcome to join USPC!
As a member, you will have access to a wealth of resources and will become a part of a community that is supportive and encouraging. With the bar set high, the Pony Club Pledge states all that USPC hopes that each member will take to heart and apply themselves to in the pursuit of better horsemanship:
As a member of the United States Pony Clubs, Inc., I stand for the best in sportsmanship as well as in horsemanship. I shall compete for the enjoyment of the game well played and take winning or losing in stride, remembering that without good manners and good temper, sport loses its cause for being. I shall endeavor to maintain the best tradition of the ancient and noble skill of horsemanship, always treating my horse with consideration due a partner.
Education: Cornerstone of Pony Club
With such a heavy emphasis on equestrian education, USPC has an educational curriculum that follows a program of instruction that meets the USPC’s Standards of Proficiency (SoP’s). The SoP’s are a carefully thought out set of skills that follow a clear progression in each of USPC’s certification disciplines.
The SoP’s form the foundation that all of the Pony Club educational materials are built upon.
The Pony Club curriculum is thorough and complete, creating a pathway of success that gives members the knowledge and skills required to become successful and accomplished equestrians in all aspects of horse care and riding.
A portion of the curriculum is administered through reading the Pony Club manuals.
USPC has three manuals that help educate the developing horse person:
There also are three other guidebooks that delve a little deeper into several topics that were covered in the manuals and they are “The USPC Guide to Bandaging Your Horse,” “The USPC Guide to Conformation, Movement, and Soundness,” and “The USPC Guide to Longeing and Ground Training.”
These manuals along with the guidebooks form a large portion of Pony Club’s list of educational materials. In addition to their own books, USPC also utilizes and recommends many other books authored by knowledgeable professional riders, trainers, coaches, and judges to help further their members’ education. USPC also has partnered with many other companies and organizations to expand the educational resources available to Pony Club members.
Pony Club Certifications
One of the unique features about Pony Club is its certification path. Certifications are evaluations where members can demonstrate their skills and show an appropriate level of knowledge at their pace when they are ready.
Members are evaluated based on the SoP’s in one of USPC’s certification disciplines.
Those certification disciplines are Eventing (formerly known as Traditional), Hunt Seat Equitation, Show Jumping, Dressage, and Western. The evaluation for certifications includes a riding portion and a knowledge portion. Both portions must be completed in order to meet the SoP’s.
Once each evaluation is completed and mastery of the SoP’s is demonstrated, members receive their certification of knowledge for the level they have successfully passed. From there, members can work towards the next level and with each passing certification they are trusted with more responsibility. The levels of certification start at what is called D Level (beginner), progressing to C Level (Intermediate) then to B Level and A Level (advanced).
In addition, the United States Pony Club supports various riding disciplines and activities.
There are USPC competitive disciplines and USPC supported disciplines. The Competitive disciplines are sports and activities that the USPC has competitions for, and Supported disciplines are sports that USPC encourages and supports, although they don’t have a competition for.
The USPC Competitive Disciplines are:
- Show Jumping
- Mounted Games
- Horse Management
- Western Dressage
- Western Trail
The USPC Supported Disciplines* are:
- Hunter Seat Equitation
- Distance Riding
*Disciplines that Pony Club supports, yet for which Pony Club does not have Pony Club competitions.
Pony Club Activities
In the United States Pony Clubs Inc. there are a number of activities that members can participate in. There are mounted meetings, unmounted meetings, and rallies.
- Mounted Meetings are club gatherings for riding lessons, clinics, practices, preps for riding certifications, or even fundays where members get together to ride.
- Unmounted Meetings are club gatherings where members will not be riding. Oftentimes this will include activities such as horse knowledge lessons, quiz preps, certification preps, and club get-togethers.
- Rallies are Pony Club competitions where members demonstrate their knowledge and skills in both horse care and riding in a competitive atmosphere. Something that sets Pony Club rallies apart from other horse competitions is that competitors compete in teams. As a team, competitors work together to ensure that each horse and rider is properly turned out (properly cared for and completely ready to compete) to the best of their abilities. Teams consist of 3-4 riding members, with one of them being the Team Captain, and an additional person who is a Stable Manager, although Stable Managers are optional. Team Captains are responsible for representing the team in all official matters, and are chosen based on certification level and not age. Stable Managers are in charge of coordinating the team schedule, supervising the tack and feed rooms, and rally kits (team required equipment).
Notable to Pony Club competitions is that parents, coaches, and chaperones are not allowed in the barn area. This is to allow the members to compete independently and show off what they can do without assistance from outside influences. Competitors work alongside their teammates under the supervision of Horse Management judges who oversee and judge the competition.
Pony Club offers A LOT!
And as we mentioned before, you don’t even have to own a horse to join. You can either borrow a horse, lease a horse, or you can certify through the levels in Horse Management until you are able to get a horse of your own to ride.
There are also ways to compete without a horse.
You can either be a stable manager for a riding team at a rally or compete in Quiz, which is strictly a horse knowledge competition or compete at an “Everything but the Horse” rally, aka a “Horseless” competition that is similar to a riding competition, yet it is without a horse. USPC is for everyone!
Become a Pony Club Member
Pony Club membership in the United States used to be limited to only youth, but now anyone of any age can join. There are even some clubs who consist entirely of adult members.
If you are interested in becoming a member, you may join Pony Club through a local club or a riding center. The difference between a Club and a Riding Center is that a club is a group of parents and other adult volunteers who have gotten together to administer the Pony Club program in their area.
While a Pony Club riding center is an equestrian facility that has been recognized by USPC to administer the Pony Club program to its lesson clients and others in the area. If you would like to find out more about Pony Club, and you are in the United States, you can visit: www.ponyclub.org.
If you live in another country, we recommend you do an internet search and look up your country’s Pony Club website to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called Pony Club? Is it a club only for ponies?
No, Pony Club isn’t a club only for ponies. When the United States Pony Clubs Inc. became a Pony Club organization, they kept the word “Pony” in the name out of respect for the tradition of the original Pony Club organization.
In USPC, the word “pony” is used to describe a member’s mount regardless of its size or breed.
How old does someone need to be to join Pony Club?
There is no national minimum age to join Pony Club, although some clubs, centers, and regions do have set a minimum age and that will vary. And there is no age limit, so if you want you could be a Pony Club member for the rest of your life!
Do I need to take riding lessons if I join Pony Club?
Yes, you will still need to take riding lessons. Pony Club is not meant to be a replacement for riding lessons, but rather as a supplement to your riding lessons. You can use Pony Club as a resource and a reference in between riding lessons as well as a way to evaluate your progress in your riding and horsemanship skills.
Pony Club is more than just an organization, it is a community and a family! You will learn so much through Pony Club and there will be so many doors of opportunity that will be opened for you.
You will make new friends, meet different horses, and make wonderful memories all while learning to do things the safe and correct way.
With Pony Club you will be able to expand and grow not only in horse knowledge, but also in sportsmanship, diligence, patience and stewardship. The skills you’ll learn and cultivate along with the life lessons will last a lifetime!
It is said that, Pony Club is the nursery for the Olympics because so many Olympic equestrian riders were once Pony Club Members. For example, Kent Farrington, Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton, Adrienne Lyle, and Doug Payne were all former Pony Club members and went to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
When you hear that “Pony Club is where it all begins,” it’s TRUE!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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