Diary of a Pony Club DC – July 2015 Pony Camp
As I mentioned previously our pony club branch is one of (well possibly the) smallest branch of the Irish Pony Club, which poses a few challenges when it comes to the logistics of organising rallies and pony club events. One of the biggest problems however is trying to create a social group feeling especially when sometimes you only have 2 riders at a rally. However we are, if nothing else, creative and we have come up with a few ways to encourage – if that’s the word (kidnap, coerce or bribe also spring to mind) new potential members and allies to join us.
One of the ways that we have done this has been to combine our pony camp with another branch from within the Area. They are also a small branch which still gives a sense of two groups coming together rather than one branch being subsumed by another.
CAFRE – Enniskillen
For the last few years our camp has been held at the wonderful CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) campus in Enniskillen. The college is an equine centre and specialises in breeding and racehorses. The advantages then for a summer pony club camp are a purpose built facility with clean and well equipped stables, plus accommodation suitable for young people with onsite catering facilities.
A Brief Bit of History
Enniskillen is quite an historic town which is quite small and rural and which according to the CAFRE website –
“The historic plantation town of Enniskillen dates from 1612 when the town was established by a charter from King James I. There is, however, evidence to suggest that land in this area was farmed during the Stone Age, over 6,000 years ago.”
The college campus itself was founded in 1967 whilst the equine-related education and training programmes were introduced at the Enniskillen Campus during 1992. So basically it’s been around a while, not that you would know that. The main outdoor arena was only put in a couple of years ago and can hold the equivalent of three ordinary arenas, and the cross country course is being added to each year.
In short then it is an amazing setting and added to that its in the heart of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland with its own amazing scenery (I should really work for the NI tourism board). The camp consisted of 18 pony clubbers and some responsible adults (!) who were mainly responsible for providing food and drinks for the kids, whilst the kids had responsibility for the ponies. Three instructors oversaw the sessions and so the kids were divided into three groups depending on age and interest in being on Leitrim’s Robbie Bailey team.
So 18 kids and 18 ponies all living and riding together – what could possibly go wrong? To be fair we had this covered as well because almost immediately opposite the college is the brand new purpose built Accident & Emergency hospital. Which according to a couple of the parents who over the years here have had the pleasure of a visit there, it is a very nice, clean and efficient place to go. Obviously this only applies if you need access to medical services, otherwise I’d say it is the last place you’d be planning to visit.
The programme usually consists of the following activities each day.
- feeding and mucking out horses and stables
- breakfast for kids
- riding with break and refreshments
- stable management and/or more riding
- riding and/or stable management
- refreshments and tack cleaning
- evening activity
And after the first night of chaos most pony club members are willing to go to bed and sleep knowing that a full day of activity is ahead of them the next day. The final day of camp we usually organise a competition or some slightly different activity. To finish off there are presentations and camp rosettes plus prizes for the best turned out, or most improved rider in each group.
The cross country course has been developed again this year and now has a purpose built water jump and a bank. The ground is lovely to ride on and a great confidence booster to the more nervous cross country riders (most of our club).
The new jumps proved to be very popular and even the odd breeze across the water didn’t seem to disturb the horses too much.
The bank jump also posed very little problem for our intrepid riders, even if it was perhaps a little steeper than it appeared.
Flatwork and Jumping Arenas
The college has a number of arenas, two outdoor and an indoor. Fortunately the weather held off most of the time and we were able to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. However for the instructor trying to teach a group of under 12s a musical dressage routine, the confines of an indoor arena was probably an advantage. The main large arena was often used for grid work and jumping practice.
The musical ride was performed for everyone to see on the last day and showed how dedicated both instructors and riders can be to come up with a routine in such a short time frame.
In the end the kids were worked hard and they and their ponies were suitably tired at the end of it all. So thank you to all the helpers, and pony club members for making this such a wonderful occasion. These kind of activities aren’t possible though without the support of the parents and it’s probably to them that we owe our greatest thanks.Hopefully we can do it all again next year!