As a professional, I’ve always taught Pony Club Clinics and even helped form a club in the 70s, but I didn’t become fully immersed in Pony Club until 2000 when my daughters became members.
One of my adult daughters has been training for a management position. We joked around about how it seemed that almost every job she’s ever had has funneled her into management. Off-handedly I blamed it on Pony Club. We quipped about all the times she was stable manager at rally and how well she’d pulled her teams together so they’d usually won the HM award.
The thought stuck with me through the evening. Even though only one daughter continues with riding, the time spent growing up with horses played a forceful roll in who they are today. It ingrained character traits in them that I admire and trust.
Sorting Horse Life from Pony Club Life
It’s difficult to separate the benefits of Pony Club life from the benefits of horse life in general, because being actively involved with horses by themselves is a powerful force all on its own. However, there are several traits that I credit to the Pony Club way.
First of all let me say, I’m not talking about kids whose involvement with horses is limited to one or two riding lessons a week on a well trained school horse. I’m talking about kids who ride their horse everyday after school, who walk them when they colic, hold them for the vet and farrier, get back on when they’re bucked off, and would rather go to a clinic or take a lesson than hang out at the mall. They learn how to shoulder responsibility. These kids learn to set goals and work toward them. They learn how to gut-out things that are tough or unpleasant. And they develop a work ethic that seems to be lacking in today’s work place. These are kids who know the feeling of success after persevering and working hard.
I wouldn’t trade my children’s time with horses for anything.
United States Pony Clubs competitions are called rallies. 4 or 5 mounted club members, plus an unmounted stable manager, compete as a team against teams from other clubs. The teams learn to work together without adult help. (Most kids love the ‘no parents in the rally stable’ aspect of Pony Club.) Teams are judged on riding, how they care for their horses, and how they take care of their equipment and barn area. A good stable manager is crucial for keeping the team organized. Pony Club rallies are rich sources for character development from teamwork to sportsmanship to management.
Another skill that Pony Club experience develops in its members is the ability to state their case. Pony Club kids learn a respectful way to deal with horse management scores they believe are wrong or unfair. They learn to follow procedure for putting together a useful argument to make their point. And they can go through several levels- inquiry, protest, and appeal, until they feel their issue is well addressed.
During testings for certificates Pony Club kids also learn to verbalize the reasoning behind their methods. They’re encouraged to speak confidently about the things they do, the tools they use, training method, horse care and a plethora of topics.
These experiences have helped my daughters in college and in their jobs when they’ve needed to give a speech or speak up on an issue or file a complaint. They know how to stand for what they believe using procedure, research and respect for others.
Involvement with Horses
Horses have so much to offer in the way of character development for children that I wonder why any parent of a horse crazy kid would not do everything they could to support their child’s interest. Being part of an organization like United States Pony Clubs puts the icing on the cake to make something good even better.
I admire the adults my children have become through their lives with horses.
Now it’s your turn. What horse experiences have helped your children become the adults you’re proud of today?
Barbara Ellin Fox