United States Pony Clubs
- "The mission of the United States Pony Clubs is to provide a program for youth that teaches riding, mounted sports, and the care of horses and ponies, thereby developing responsibility, moral judgment, leadership and self-confidence."
-Pony Club Mission Statement
The word "Pony" in United States Pony Club referes to the fact that USPC members are individuals who are 21 years of age or younger (recently changed to 25 years old or younger). It is not a reference to the types of horses allowed in pony club, rather merely a reference to the age group of its members.
There are over 600 clubs in the United States and over 12,000 members. Children have to have access to a horse or pony but they do not have to own one. Many programs are offered including eventing, dressage, mounted games, horse management, Quiz Rally (formerly known as Knowdown), polocrosse, show-jumping, tetrathalon D-rally, and C and up Pick Your Ride Rally. Some clubs also offer foxhunting or Hunter Paces. Another recent addition to the list of rallies is quadrille, in which there are four people that do a dressage test. There is also one stable manager per team who assists the riders in the barn and helps to care for the horses. Pony Club includes unmounted meetings where children are taught about the health and care of their horses. Some of the unmounted lessons include instruction on feeding, shoeing and veterinary care. Some of the more experienced Pony Clubbers may instruct and assist younger members. In fact, as a pony clubber progresses through the ratings, teaching of fellow pony club members becomes a prerequisite for passing.
Recently, the US Pony Club has added an adult organization, the Horsemasters. Horsemasters clubs serve as both a volunteer group to assist with Pony Club activities as well as their own adult horse riding club.There are the gold, silver, and bronze ratings.
One of the aspects that makes Pony Club one of the most popular and highly regarded equestrian instructional programs in the world is their rating system. When a child enters Pony Club they are unrated they can begin to test into the higher ratings beginning with D-1 then D-2, D-3, C-1, C-2, HB, C-3, B, H-A and finally A. D-1 through C-2 are local ratings given at the club level with the H-B, C-3, B, H-A, and A are at the National level. In the UK, the tests start with D (the lowest) and proceed through D+, C, C+, B, AH and A. The last three are awarded after riders have been tested by outside examiners appointed by Pony Club Headquarters.
The USPC has recently begun specialized ratings, focusing on eventing (the traditional format), dressage, or show jumping. Beginning at the C-3 level, the candidate may choose a path and follow that discipline through to the A rating. These ratings would go as follows:
- Eventing (traditional): C-3 approx. training level, B approx. preliminary level, A approx. intermediate level
- Show Jumping: C-3 rides 3'3-3'6" (level II-III jumpers), B rides 3'9" (level III-IV jumpers), A rides 4'3" (level V-VI jumpers)
- Dressage: C-3 approx. first level, B second level, A third level.
According to the United States Pony Club Standards of Proficiency, a D level Pony Clubber learns to ride independently and with control, maintaining a reasonably secure position at the walk, trot, canter and over low jumps. The C-1 and C-2 level Pony Clubber shows development towards a secure, independent seat and increasing control and confidence in all phases of riding.
All riders would still be required to take their H/H-A rating.
"Standards of Proficiency." ponyclub.org The United States Pony Club, 2005. Web. 16 March 2009.
Competitions are held annually for Dressage, Show jumping, Eventing, Mounted Games, Polocrosse, Tetrathalon, and Quiz/Horse Knowledge. The competitions are known as rallies and they are team rather than individual competitions. Rallies that involve the care of horses (Quiz is referred to as a "horse-less rally") also involve a great deal of horse management: teams usually have a dedicated Horse Manager and are frequently inspected by the judges for how well the competitors take care of and present their horses, tack, and stable areas. Horse management scores are factored into the overall placing of the teams.
For the Quiz competition, pony clubbers' knowledge is tested in regard to horses and their care. There are five main aspects of a quiz competition: classroom, barn, stations, mega-room, and the written test.
In the classroom section quiz questions are asked for each particular members rating level with varying degrees of difficulty. Questions cover such areas as equine nutrition, conformation, competition rules, riding skills, veterinary knowledge, and equine first aid.
For the barn section, members are taken into a barn (or mock barn) and asked to test the members' practical, hands-on knowledge (for example, identifying pieces of equipment and their uses).
The format of the stations phase can vary greatly from Region to Region. The stations phase is limited only by the creativity of the organizer: questions can be written, games, hands-on, oral, etc. All questions in the stations phase are answered as a team and are meant to be of a more difficult nature than in the classroom phase.
Mega-room consists of tables with horse-related items displayed on them where each item must be identified (matched on a given list) by the individuals (no team work) under a given time limit.
The written test is 25 questions and are taken individually. The difficulty of the test varies as specified by the competitor's rating level.
Rallies are held at the regional level in each of the sports (dressage, show jumping, eventing, games, tetrathalon, polocrosse, Quiz) and the top competitors in each sport can then choose to participate in the Pony Club National Championships. National Championships are held every year in various places (for the East coast it is usually held in Lexington, Kentucky or Lexington, Virginia). In 2009, the championships will be in July at the Virginia Horse Center. This event normally brings over 4,000 Pony Club members and has educational clinics in addition to the competitions.