Pony Club Has A Richly Interwoven Fabric

Aug 12, 2004 - 10:00 PM
I`m going to be honest here: this Commentary didn`t just flow from my keyboard. I wanted to write something that commemorated the U.S. Pony Clubs` golden anniversary (p. 26), looking at it through the prism of my involvement with the group, which spanned about 25 years, starting as a D1 to being a coach, district commissioner, committee chairman and member of the Board of Governors.
But I`m afraid I haven`t been able to concoct a tidy memory or message. I couldn`t come up with a particularly funny or apt reminiscence that would sum things up neatly. Still, I kept thinking of all the good people around whom my involvement as a child and as an adult revolved, some of whom were named USPC Legends at the 50th anniversary celebration in January (see Jan. 30, p. 24). I can think of many others who will always be honorary legends in my mind, and I suspect tens of thousands of others can do the same.
Honestly, it`s been a while since I recalled my youth in the Spring Valley Hounds Pony Club (N.J.), filled with ratings, rallies and lots of lessons and related activities. I can still remember the ritual of putting together those lists of required equipment each team had to have, the bonding of various teams, and the intensive preparation for my B, H-A and A ratings. And I`ll never forget the dedication of the two young women who were my club`s D.C.s then (Marilyn Payne and Molly Peet), who taught us so much about riding, caring for our horses and giving back.
Then, looking at the Pony Club Legends list, I was drawn to the names of about a dozen ladies with whom I had the pleasure of working. Marylou Anderson became the USPC`s president in the mid-`80s, and as a member of the board serving under her, her common-sense approach to everything was something I`ve always tried to emulate. She always had the uncanny ability to think far ahead, philosophically, while attending to what needed to be done, practically, to get there. Millie Kopperl, who was chairman of the Combined Training Committee for years and years, is another cut from the same cloth, as are Kay Hales, Paula Raye, Abby Shultis, Eve Fout, Amy Lewis, Trish Gilbert, Melanie Heacock, Cindy Piper and three who are sadly no longer with us (Margaret Smith, Bets Wesson and Connie McElhinny).
My own Pony Club experience certainly couldn`t overlook George Helwig and Capt. Jack Fritz. I remember, when I was taking my H-A and A tests (I took two of each before I passed), calling George, then the USPC`s executive director, to find out about testing dates and, later, frequently calling him for advice and information when I joined the Tetrathlon Committee. And his untiring, productive volunteer work in the nearly 20 years since he left that post have been a model for all. And Capt. Fritz failed me at my first H-A test, telling me I simply wasn`t ready. This was at the end of a summer in which he`d judged my dressage rides at both the regional and national rallies, so he sort of burst my 18-year-old bubble about how good I was. Thank you, Capt. Fritz.
Thousands of others` people who`ve been D.C.s or instructors for decades or been rally organizers, dedicated fund-raisers, or willing parents and friends` have made the USPC function for half a century. They make a thickly interwoven fabric that`s one of the reasons why, whenever former Pony Clubbers meet, they always have so many memories to relive.

John Strassburger

 
 
 
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