Growing up, I was obsessed with “The Saddle Club”. When I first started riding, I didn’t want to do anything other than form my own group that spent our days hanging around the farm and riding through the fields. What could be better than that?
So I joined Pony Club.
Pony Club allowed me to live out my childhood “Saddle Club” dreams while teaching my valuable equine lessons.
And Pony Club certainly provided me with numerous opportunities to recreate my “Saddle Club” dreams – I met lifelong friends in my club and region, during camps and certifications. We camped out at the farms for sleepovers, played new sports like polocrosse, and used (horse safe) paint to learn the anatomy of the horse… and add some extra color!
While these opportunities for friendship were life-changing, Pony Club also assisted in my own personal development as a horsewoman, student, and person in ways I couldn’t even imagine or recognize in the moment.
First off, the quality of care I provided my horses skyrocketed.
Studying nutrition, barn safety, toxic plants, tack, and more allowed me to become a more conscientious horsewoman. Pony Club encouraged me to be an increasingly “thinking” equestrian, as I read numerous manuals, books, and theories on horse care, but I also applied that knowledge in practical situations.
Not only has this allowed me to take better care of my own horses, changing their nutrition as they go through changes in their life, or finding the right tack to support their long term comfort, but it has allowed me to provide the same high standard of care for others’ horses, from working in working student positions to communicating with the vet or preparing for a career in the industry.
The experience also gave me confidence in my abilities, and the confidence to speak up.
While attending a Pony Club certification as an examiner a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of confidence that develops through Pony Club participation. Reflecting on my time in Pony Club, I so clearly remember instructors encouraging me to speak up, talk about what I was feeling, recognize what went well, and create a plan to move forward for what didn’t work as well. Although it was uncomfortable to speak so boldly as a six-year-old, articulating what and how I was feeling, or how my horse was feeling, this tradition of post-ride reflection soon became a natural part of my day with my horse.
True to Pony Club fashion, I still strive to reflect on every ride or every experience, first with what went well, then with a tangible plan to improve. While this approach is critical to my riding, it also supports me in my work outside of horses. In speaking up in class, in job interviews, or just in conversation with a stranger, I feel confident in my ability to communicate my experience, thoughts, and feelings.
Finally, the network and family formed through Pony Club are unparalleled.
I am still in touch with many of the riders I spent days with at camps, rallies, and certifications. I have reached out when I have a question, need assistance, or could offer my support for their own horsemanship journey. As a Pony Clubber, I can also easily connect to new contacts and Pony Club graduates now working in the industry, extending my network far beyond what I ever thought possible. In an industry that can be so challenging, I am grateful for the opportunity to give and receive support and assist in creative brainstorming as new challenges arise.
I am so appreciative for the chance to live out my “Saddle Club” dreams through Pony Club, forming lifelong friendships along the path of developing equine knowledge, personal confidence, and a mutually beneficial network that sustains a sense of “Saddle Club” community, support, and joy – even as an adult.