As well as my interest in horses and equine businesses I have the privilege (???) of being the District Commissioner or DC for our local pony club. This would normally be quite a challenging role as I’m sure many other DCs will verify. However I also happen to be DC for the smallest pony club in Ireland and we have a membership of 5 riders and only 2 ponies between us (well technically there are more ponies but only 2 members have ponies). So how does it work? After all having only 5 members and trying to maintain rallies and provide a programme of activities that is different to the local equestrian centre is not easy.
Irish Pony Club
We are members of the Irish Pony Club, which may seem obvious but actually we are closer to the Northern Ireland area of the UK Pony Club and sometimes it does feel as if it would be much easier to be a member of their group. As a club we are based in Donegal on the West of Ireland and the Irish Pony Club is based in Dublin. Just to put that into context Donegal is to Dublin what Siberia is to Moscow – its a place to send people to but not to go and visit or stay there yourself! Luckily the area has some great pony club branches that we can link in with, although the geography of the region can be challenging – it’s 5 hours from one end to the other of Area 6, which is our area of the Irish Pony Club (IPC). Fortunately we are more or less in the middle so we’re max 2 -3 hrs from any of the other clubs in our region.
The Smallest Branch of the Pony Club in Ireland (I am assuming)
It was actually an instructor who recently made that comment, and I thought it had a real ring to
it. So as my attempts to recruit new members have failed (I’m actually struggling to find kids in our area that ride) then I have decided to take to social media. We are now a virtual pony club with our own Facebook page and this is a great way to share photos and keep interested people up to date on our activities. And yes even with just 5 members (when they all turn up but that’s another story) we still have activities and produce cool photos to share with our fellow pony clubbers. We also have an annual residential camp which we have done with another club in order to bring numbers up. This provides a great opportunity for our kids to meet other club members and experience the socialising element that pony club is supposed to be encouraging.
This would seem to be a very logical question and I have been known to ask it myself on occasions. But there is still something special about pony club and what it can provide to its members. As a new parent to horses it was pony club that taught me the ropes and introduced me to other parents who had at one time been in the same position. It was pony club that taught both my children not just about riding but about looking after horses, theory and practical knowledge that will last them forever whether they work with horses or ride for pleasure later on in life. And by giving back to pony club and meeting new instructors and organising rallies and camps I also continue to learn and improve my own equine knowledge.
The Future of Pony Club
There is no doubt that with the added expense of membership, joining pony club is not an option or a priority for many parents at this moment in time. It does take a lot of time and money and that can be hard on families especially when there are other siblings requiring that level of attention as well. (probably why so many younger siblings get thrown into learning to ride and pony club, so at least they are all in one place!) I really hope it does survive these lean times, and I have no doubt things will have to change if its future is to be secure, but I’m game to work with that and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I would also love to hear from other DCs and pony club parents about what’s working in your club and what changes are happening in your area to keep pony club alive and well. Thanks for reading and stay in touch