As I’m writing this post I am also aware that in Ireland all the pony club test information is about to change. I have to admit that as a DC I still hadn’t got my head around the old tests so there was not much chance I am going to learn all about the new ones. So this post as been written partly for my benefit and partly for parents who are probably even less sure about what is happening (I feel your pain). I have covered in detail the main tests that most pony club members complete which are the introductory and intermediate tests (up as far as C+). I will discuss the more advanced tests in a separate post.
The current system consists of three groups of tests, which have different age limits for taking them.
- the D/D+ which are the introductory tests,
- the C / C+ which are the intermediate riding and stable management tests and
- the advanced tests B/ B+ /A .
- There is also a riding and road safety test and a separate Horsemanship (H) test.
There is a strong focus within the intermediate and higher tests on equine knowledge as well as riding, so the tests are not riding proficiency tests but a combination of both theory and riding. Hence the age restrictions because much of the theory side is quite complicated and getting into the realms of basic veterinary care. There is information on the Irish Pony Club Site about the different tests but I thought it might be easier to layout the information in one place (with my own comments and opinions thrown in for good measure)
Pony Club Tests – Introductory Tests D & D+
At the moment this is the first entry test, and the aim is to show a basic understanding of riding ponies minimum age is 8, (which is a bit hard if you’ve been riding since you were 3) The syllabus has three parts looking at road safety, basic riding and simple practical horsemanship.
- Mount and dismount correctly, using either mounting block or getting a leg-up if required.
- Demonstrate a reasonably correct position in the saddle.
- How to hold and shorten the reins.
- To be able to ride a quiet pony safely, in an enclosed area without the leading rein, in walk and trot.
- To know on which side of the road you should ride.
- To understand the Junior Road Rider code.
- How to ride along a road, cross a road and say ‘thank you’
- To know it is safer to ride on the road with adults or parents.
- Approach and handle a pony correctly.
- Know basic needs of a pony in summer and winter.
- Know how to catch a pony and put on a headcollar or halter.
- Explain the proper way to give a pony an apple or carrot.
- Lead a pony in hand and turn correctly in walk.
- Name simple points of the pony.
- Name different parts of saddle and bridle.
This is the second introductory level test and build upon the basic skills learnt at the D level. All the points covered in the D test apply here and in addition the following areas are also included. Minimum age is 10 for this test.
- Hold and shorten the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand.
- Be able to walk on a long rein.
- To be able to control a quiet pony in company, on the roads and in the countryside.
- Walk without stirrups.
- Show use of natural aid to control your pony.
- Simple turns and circles in walk and trot.
- Be able to canter.
- Ride up and down hills in walk.
- Ride over a single pole and very small fence.
- How to ride along a road, cross a road and say ‘thank you’, and how to signal to turn right or left.
- To know it is safer to ride on the road with adults or parents.
- To show an awareness of dangers when riding on the road, understanding what is likely to frighten a pony or cause him to slip.
- To understand how to ride with a friend whilst on the road.
- Recognise the dangers to ponies from cars and other traffic.
- Know the basic needs of and care for a pony living in a field.
- Put on a saddle and bridle with assistance.
- Be able to tell if saddle & bridle are fitting correctly..
- Know how to clean and care for saddlery.
- Catching a pony and turn it away in the field.
- Lead a pony in hand at walk and trot, and turn correctly.
- Tie up a pony correctly.
- Names and uses of grooming kit.
- Recognise if pony needs shoeing.
- Pick up and pick out feet.
- Points of the pony, colours and markings.
- Be able to recognise turn-out rugs/cooler rugs/ and a night rug.
- Basic signs of good health in your pony.
Riding & Road Safety Test
There is a riding and road safety test within pony club or many clubs also do the BHS Riding and Road Safety since it will last into adulthood and is needed if BHS exams are taken. The test can be taken at any stage but is usually done somewhere after the D+ and before the C+.
There are three parts to the test which are;
A simulated test – done in an arena or field, which is where different road scenarios can be illustrated
The theoretical test is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the rules, regulations and advice contatined in the “Rules of the Road”.
The Road Test
This is the ‘real life’ practical to be carried out on fairly quiet roads and carrying out the examiners instructions.
Pony Club Tests – Intermediary Tests C & C+
The first of the intermediary tests is the C test, this test is often as far as many members choose to go since it enables you to compete in most competitions. However for this reason the pony club has made it quite hard especially in terms of the equine knowledge and theory that is needed. However here is a breakdown of the syllabus
The minimum age is 12 and as with all the tests whatever was covered in the previous syllabus is included plus the additional.
- Turn-out of pony and rider.
- Show a balanced and correct position at walk, trot (rising and sitting on either diagonal, change of diagonal) and canter.
- Ride without stirrups at walk and trot.
- Adjust stirrups when mounted.
- Adjust girth when mounted.
- Understand the meaning of the word “aids” and know the natural & artificial aids for
(ii) turns and circles.
(iii) canter on a named leg on a circle.
- Walk on a long rein.
- Ride up and down hill.
- Show a balanced position over small fences.
- Jump a short course with a variety of simple fences (max. height 80 cm.), no combinations.
- Jump small fences on slopes, banks and small ditches in open country
- Show a balanced position out of the saddle at cross country pace.
- Care and working of a pony kept in a field and/or in a stable.
- Recognise a suitable field for your pony.
- Basic knowledge and rules of feeding and watering.
- Know what and how much in kilos your own pony eats.
- Grooming – items of grooming kit and show how to use them.
- Shoeing and care of feet – know when a pony needs shoeing and what to look for in a well shod hoof.
- Discuss your pony’s shoes.
- Basic care and cleaning of saddlery.
- Outline indications of a healthy pony.
- Basic knowledge of treatment of minor wounds.
- List essential items of a travelling first aid kit for your pony/horse.
- Describe signs of an unwell pony including: colic, laminitis, coughs and colds, lice, sweetitch.
- Know when to seek adult advice.
- Recognise when pony is lame – how to trot-up for lameness.
- Lead in hand – walking, trotting and turning.
- Discuss the importance of protecting legs while travelling.
- Explain how to take pony in and out of a horsebox with an assistant And do and don’t of leaving a pony/horse in a horsebox.
- Show how to saddle and bridle (snaffle bridle only).
- Know the name and action of one’s own pony’s bit and own tack.
- Put on and take off a rug. Recognise a stable rug, turn-out rug, anti-sweat sheet and cooler.
- Put on a tail bandage.
At this level of the tests both equine knowledge and riding skills are technical. There is a lot of information to process and the minimum age of the test is 14. At this level the test is equivalent to the adult BHS level 1. All of the points are required from the C test but there is less support given and candidates are expected to know immediately the answers without additional prompting.
- Discuss own horse’s way of going and explain tack used.
- Candidates will be asked to ride another candidate’s horse on the flat only and comment on observations of how the brief went.
- Mount and dismount correctly on either side.
- Position at walk, trot, canter and gallop.
- Show practical knowledge of even paces and of pony accepting contact.
- Understand what is meant by “going forward in rhythm and balance”.
- Work without stirrups at, walk, trot and canter at Examiner’s discretion.
- Know the aids for and be able to carry out:
(i) increases and decreases of pace.
(ii) circles – l0 metres in walk, l5 metres in trot and 20 metres in canter.
(iii) Sitting trot, rising trot on correct diagonal.
(iv) Loops and serpentines.
(v) Quarter or half turn on or about the forehand,
(vi) change of leg at canter through trot.
(vii) free walk on a long rein or loose rein.
(viii) Halt and salute.
- Know the sequence of legs at different paces.
- Show that jumping position is secure and balanced.
- Know what to look for and how to walk a jumping course.
- Jump a show-jumping course to include a one or two stride double including bending line at trot and canter.
- Jump up and down hill, drop fences, banks and ditches and cross country fences of varied heights (recommended not over 95 cm.)
- Ride at a suitable cross country pace with regard to ground condition
Changes to the Pony Club Tests
There is talk of changing the tests and so I just wanted to say a few words on that! A number of people would have concerns that the jump form D+ to C is very large both in terms of riding ability but especially in terms of the amount of equine knowledge that is needed. There is a suggestion to bring in a new E test and move the D and D+ down a level (D = E and D+=D) making a new D+ syllabus. However whilst I agree with the principle and understand why the changes are being suggested I would raise a couple of concerns.
- There will be kids in the club with two different types of D+ and this is going to become complicated for events and competitions if the standard has changed.
- A lower test is needed for younger riders especially those under 8 and moving the D to E still doesn’t address that unless the ages are all changed again.
- A better (in my opinion) solution might be to keep the tests as they are but make the following changes;
- Introduce an E test that is lower than the D for younger riders, including lead rein members
- Introduce a new intermediate level test C- which would bridge the gap between D+ and C.
The tests are complicated enough as it is and there is a system in place that many members are halfway through. If you start moving boundaries you end up in the position of recommending that younger members who completed their D+ last year would be better doing the revised D+ next year because this is actually the next level up, but in their eyes they are repeating a test they already have.
I would be interested in hearing any other opinions from parents or members as to what would be the best way to proceed? any thoughts drop me a line below in the comments section.