The Pony Club is considered the number one organisation for young people who love ponies and riding.
An international voluntary youth organisation, it has over 110,000 members across 19 countries making it the largest association of riders in the world.
Founded in England in 1930, there are now more than 47,500 members in the UK and Ireland. Most British equestrian medal winners at the Olympics and World Championships have been members of the Pony Club, including William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnel and David Broome. The Pony Club's objectives are:
- To encourage young people to ride and to learn to enjoy all kinds of sport connected with horses and riding.
- To give instruction in riding and horsemanship and to educate members to look after and to take proper care of their animal.
- To promote the highest ideals of sportsmanship, citizenship and loyalty creating strength of character and self-discipline.
The Pony Club UK is split into 19 regions known as areas, each containing numerous branches and centres.
A branch covers a specified geographical area and each is organised using the Purposes and the Rules of the Pony Club. Every branch is part of a Pony Club area and looked after by an area representative, who represents them on the Pony Club Council.
Every branch is administered by a voluntary district commissioner helped by a voluntary local committee, responsible for organising a full programme of working rallies and other fixtures, which usually take place during school holidays. These include competitions, an annual camp, inter-club visits and social events.
In the summer inter-branch events are held which encourage teamwork and promote pride, leading to the National Championships in August.
Northern Ireland is known as Area 17 in which there are 11 branches: East Antrim, East Down, Fermanagh Harriers, Iveagh, Killultagh Old Rock & Chichester Harriers, Mid Antrim, North Derry, North Down, Route Hunt, Seskinore Harriers and Tullylagan
Liz Lowry, Area 17's representative on the Pony Club Council, maintains that the club is first and foremost a training organisation, with competitions the icing on the cake.
"It's not about winning rosettes, it's about horsemanship," said Liz.
"Some members have to be reminded of that, but the real Pony Clubber twigs on it early and has a wonderful Pony Club life."
The Pony Club provides a number of tests to assess riding and horse and pony care in a structured way, each becoming more difficult € ranging from D, which is the easiest through to the 'A' Riding Test, the most difficult.
Northern Ireland is to hold its first Pony Club 'A' Riding Test in the near future. In the past the 'A' test has always been examined in England.
Pony Club members can take advantage of many activities such as:
- rallies (group teaching sessions)
- efficiency tests
- progressive tests
- achievement badges
- league competitions
- own a pony days
- outings to equestrian events.
The following list shows the contact details of the Pony Club Centres in Northern Ireland:
· Birr House Riding Centre, Dundonald, 028 9042 5858
· Burn Equestrian Centre, Saintfield Road, Belfast, 028 9040 2384
· Galgorm Parks Riding School, Ballymena, 028 2588 0269
· Faughanvale Stables, Greysteel, Co Londonderry, 058 71811843
· Lessans Riding Stables, Saintfield, 028 9751 0141
· Mullaghbawn Pony Club Centre, Newry, 0278 3088 8898
· Rainbow Equestrian Centre, Islandmagee, 028 9338 2929, www.ashfieldrda.co.uk
· Tullynewbank Stables, Glenavy, Co Antrim, 028 9445 657, www.tullynewbank-stables.com.
If you would like to learn more about the Pony Club UK in your area contact: Area Representative, Mrs Elizabeth Lowry, 31 Coach Road, Comber, Newtownards, Co Down, BT23 5OX. Tel: 028 9187 0766 or 028 9187 0766 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.pcuk.org.uk