This is an update to the diary of a DC since we have had a busy time since the end of the summer. September is normally a down time for the pony club after camp, Area Qualifiers and all the summer competitions. However this year things were a little different.
New Pony Club Members
We have actually gained some new members after months of recruiting and trying to ambush every child under 14 who was competing in any local event. Eight members have signed up, which was partly due to Pony Club HQ deciding to lower the membership fee for people who joined after August 31st.
This has tripled our pony club size and we are now officially, no longer the smallest pony club (branch) in Ireland, for the time being at any rate.
We have also recruited a number of younger members including some who are still on lead rein. Not all clubs in Ireland accept members this young, but this is working well for us and many of this group actually have their own ponies which is an advantage when so many of the older ones don’t.
New Pony Club Premises
Well not exactly new, as a pony club we were never really located anywhere and roamed about different venues. This may actually have been a disadvantage in recruiting new members, since nobody really knew where we were. A former pony club instructor now operates from a small yard in South Donegal (Mountcharles) and this has enabled us to establish a bit of a base.
This means that we have access to stables and an outdoor arena, tack room and indoor coffee area in a fairly easy to access location. We have been able to bring together all our equipment (well poles and some pony games equipment) into one place. It’s an ideal location where we can bring instructors and not have to worry about the rain (too much) or time if things overrun.
It’s also ideal for the younger kids because there is space to run about without interfering with other riders or adults using a centre.
Pony Club Activities
As a result of the new location we have been running our rallies outdoors and have been lucky with the weather. In late August and September we had a couple of pony club games sessions and enjoyed some ‘hot’ sunshine. As I write this it’s now November and we are still able to ride outside and enjoy some of the amazing sunsets as well.
We have also managed to do the following during our programme in September.
- Pony Club Games
- Stable Management – including world towards the plaiting, grooming and mucking out badges
- Riding young ponies (with senior members)
- Show jumping (guest instructor)
- Cross Country
The programme has been varied as you can see and for the lead rein group we have even done a mini trek as well as riding in the arena. It’s also been a time for parents to meet and get to know myself and the main instructor as well as meet each other. All I need now are some volunteers for the parents committee.
Recruiting New Members – Possible Tips?
So what lessons have I learned about recruiting new members, well here is a list of some of the issues and comments that parents made about why they decided to join, and why they hadn’t joined before.
- Visibility of the Club – despite writing in the local paper, being listed on the irish Pony Club Website and having a Facebook page, we have still encountered members who didn’t know we existed. We did get one member who found us from the Dublin Horse Show (which meant they had to travel to the other end of the country to find out where we were).
- Pony Club Reduced Cost – we were lucky that HQ finally (after a lot of persuasion) agreed to reduce the yearly membership for members joking after the end of August. This made it a lot easier to convince parents that it was a worthwhile investment.
- Reduced Rally Cost – moving our premises and offering lower costs for rallies has meant that we are no longer competing against the local riding school, and also can offer a better value for money experience.
- Facebook Page – the new members have been encouraged by the photos of themselves on Facebook and these have been shared amongst other family and friends, so more people have started to like the page and engage with comments.
It has been a long slog over several years to build up the club, and we are not there yet. We have had to battle the natural loss of kids not riding because of the recession, along with having such as small presence ourselves that we found it hard convincing anyone that we were a club at all.
But the rewards hopefully will now begin to show as new friends are being built amongst both the kids and the parents. Next stop is our annual parents meeting and then we onto Christmas, scary how time flies but hopefully the fun will continue.