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The River Valley Pony Club met on Thursday, August 31 at the Westward Hall indoor riding arena. The group first started by leading their horses around the arena before moving into walking between poles laid on the ground and progressing to jumping or stepping over platforms that slowly increased in height.
The curriculum taught is designed to give riders a solid foundation of horsemanship and stable management, as well as the skills they need. Starting with a beginner level and ending up in advanced, it prepares members by gradually progressing through the teachings. During the colder months, members dismount and are in a school-like environment.
“Through the winter, we do winter theory,” explained Sheila McNaughton, the local club’s assistant district commissioner. “The kids learn horse body parts, cleaning saddles, saddle parts, safety, and care of a pony or horse. As kids progress there’s more and more information that they study. They have workbooks and little manuals that they do as well. At the end of the year, oral and written tests are available.
The group meets on Thursdays and is in its second year. It all started with a funny story about Jillian Byers (district commissioner) and her cows getting loose. On her journey to find them she happened upon Sheila’s farm where Sheila had some horses in a corral with jumps set up. They both chatted about loving Pony Clubs and decided to re-start one locally. Within just a few months, they had a name, a board, and were registered.
“It really just popped out of nowhere. We didn’t even know if we would have kids but we wanted it because Jillian and I liked it. It came out of our love for it, and wanting to give it back to the kids,” explained Sheila. The group now has 16 plus members and three horse masters.
The program teaches English riding discipline and is still being tweaked to suit the kids who take part. Depending on how much a child wants to learn, or how hard he or she wants to work, the program can give them what they are after. “You get out of Pony Club what you want. You can come and get your lessons, do your studying, and learn about it. There’s no requirement to test or go to competitions. It’s what the rider wants and what he or she wants to do,” said Sheila.
There is one thing the club really needs, though, and that’s volunteers. “I find that volunteers sometimes don’t believe they can make a difference but they can. It’s all about little steps. Getting the kids together, learning about horses, having fun, being safe, and socializing is so important. The horses are just extra!” Parents can easily volunteer while their children are taking part making it a great event to get involved in as a family.
For more information on what Pony Club is all about, visit www.canadianponyclub.org. For information pertaining to the local club including how to join, search for the Facebook group, River Valley Pony Club.