We went to a local circuit show this weekend. Normally, there are some ok horses, some nice ones. About half of the "regulars" on the circuit show at rateds as well with varying degrees of success. But then there was this show.
A local Pony Club group came. I understand not everyone is going to show up in Butets and COs riding $$$ horses, I was stunned at them. Hair hanging out of helmets, rumpled clothes, grungy tack, dirty horses, unclipped horses. You name it. Then they hit the ring. Scary to say the least. The "best" ones did 2'6". Many didn't seem to have any business doing 6".
I realize that PC groups are only as good as their leaders, but WOW! What are they supposed to be learning? At what point do they look around & go - wow! That is what we're supposed to look like!?! Do PCs have thier own horses?
That was my experience as well with some of our local pony club groups. Some are better than others, none are particularly spectacular. In my opinion, the quality of horse education that you can get through a pony club has declined from what it used to be (reportedly, before I was born). The good pony club kids who do quite well use pony club as a secondary means of horse education, just for fun and to do the quiz etc. The ones who rely solely on pony club seem to have missed some important lessons about turnout, safety, and how to you know, ride.
A lot of the ones I have had experience run solely with help of parent volunteers (some horsey, some not). Most are well meaning, but well meaning or not they don't really know a lot about horses. And then there are crazy pony club politics. The ones that didn't rely solely on parents had coaches that volunteered, except sometimes the coaches were graduates of that particular pony club, which used to rely on parent volunteers. So I dunno. When you get a really good set of coaches and parents, I bet it's great. But when it doesn't work out that way, I've seen some disasters. I strongly believe that pony club should not be the only lessons a kid is getting.
And yes, I'm pretty sure pony club kids need to have their own horse or a lease or a borrowed one that is "theirs". In other words, not lesson horses.
Unfortunately it is true that PC club quality can vary enormously from club to club.
Eons ago when I was a kid doing PC - with Meadowbrook Hounds, a great, well-run group - we had a mix of horse owning and non-owning riders. The parents who ran the club were knowledgeable and worked hard to provide the kids who didn't own their own mounts some opportunities to ride, do their tests, etc, but there were no club-owned horses. Some very generous owners did lend their horses for rallies, lessons, etc. It was a great experience. I still treasure the trophy I won for year end high score in that club, which I earned so long ago, dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
Some years later when I looked into becoming involved in another club as a volunteer, (in another state,) I was absolutely appalled by the way the club was run, using that term loosely. The turnout of the horses and riders was very much as you describe; unkempt, messy... a bit scary. I did wonder what had happened to the really excellent MANUALS that PCs are supposed to follow! After an admittedly somewhat half-hearted effort to raise the standard there, I bailed, and have never been back.
It's a shame that there are so many clubs that fall into that category. I know that the politics in some regions turns off a lot of knowledgeable folks who might otherwise gladly get involved. Without good leadership, it's hard for a club to succeed. Given that there are also plenty of really GOOD clubs out there, preparing kids to be excellent horsemen as well as riders... one would think that parents in the poorly run clubs would notice the difference and do something about it.
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
Instead of staring and commenting on the PC abilities I think of it this way... They all have to start somewhere. For some of them going to these shows and seeing what is accpetable will change their outlook and they will start paying attention to details on their horse and self appearance.
Same with the green horse at an A show. Give em a break ...they have to start somewhere too!
I did pony club as a kid (and I am only 24), and while not everyone had the best horses, most of them were their own or a long term lease. I remember that turn out was a huge deal, no dirt, no wrinkles, spotless horses etc. Hair may not be up, but had to be neat and in a hair net. Most of the horses were not scary especially at the level of height you are talking about (The D level) most of the younger kids were on packers of some sort (maybe not a hunter packer, but safe and quiet). Our club especially wanted safe horses/ponies, I remember my pony was deemed "unsafe" because he wouldn't stand still for an extended period of time and could be funny around some people because he had been abused.
I agree that it can really vary from club to club. At the same time I am sure everyone also knows a "hunter" trainer who doesn't always have the best turn out of horses or best horses for the job. People who are outside of the hunter world and have bad horses really stand out.
I really really liked pony club as a whole. Looking back there were a lot of politics and bad leadership in places. I only did it until I was about 13 so I didn't get that then. I did learn a lot and at the Rallies they are super picky about turnout and safety, and it is a great way for children to really learn to work together and do things right. At the rallies you have no adult with chores and getting ready and being on time.
Turnout in general seems to have become a lost art. I would NEVER allow my daughter or myself to enter a show ring looking less than ready. I remember back in my youth a pony club that was wicked good when it came to what they did. Of course, most had money and probably rode elsewhere as well.
A lot of our locals are like that, too, though I deal mostly in 4-H and not PC. A lot of the schooling shows in my area do not require formal dress, which is not a bad thing for lesson kids who don't own their own horses and who might show once a year-clean breeches, safe boots, neat shirt and helmet are acceptable, and we try not to judge. My 4-H kids go in as neat as possible and are not allowed to ride above their level, but we are there to have fun and give them the opportunity to try. That's kind of the accepted level for those shows.
OTOH, I did not (and still don't, truth be told) appreciate being beaten in a showmanship class where the other competitors had shirts untucked, hair a mess, no helmet, horse's hooves not oiled, etc-AND they didn't know the quarter system. My horse took 2 steps to pick up the trot in hand, but really? In SHOWMANSHIP?
OTOH again, when I was in New Hampshire and a 4-H leader, our club's kids didn't show without proper turnout of horse and human. We kept a box of hand-me-downs in good condition that teh bigger kids had outgrown, and the othr leader or I were known to lend to the bigger kids if they needed something they couldn't buy. Horses were always braided and clipped, etc. Other club leaders used ours an example, and we were very proud of that.
To me, though, what I guess it boils down to at our very local level is that the kids present the best picture they can with what they have. If that means rubber boots all shined up and Mom's blazer, than good on them for the effort-and shame on anyone who doesn't put in any effort at all.
I can only speak for our pony club but our kids know how to turn out properly. One rally at the D level will teach you that. Picky, picky in horse management, safe tack and cleanliness.
Most kids have their own or leased pony or horse of varying quality. We have a range of riding ability from unrated up through HA. All of them are expected to have their own trainer as well as take advantage of the opportunities offered by pony club.
We pay our instructors and have brought in some great people. Names probably more recognizable in eventing circles but excellent instructors.
I'm with Hunter Mom, I'd beat my daughter with a stick if she turned up for a lesson unkempt let alone show up for a competition looking less than polished.
No, a lot of PCers don't have their own horses. I never rated up on my own horse in the 10 years I was in PC. Mine died before I had a chance to. So I begged and borrowed rides, sometimes going to jumping clinics on a horse I never sat on before, my C2 rating on a friend's horse I had ridden a handful of times and jumped twice.
In my club, cleanliness and neatness was paramount, but not always what you would expect at a hunter show. God forbid your tail have dandruff, but a clipped horse? Not common. That sheath better be clean, but braids? Not encouraged.
Jackets and breeches are often borrowed, or second hand, because these are growing kids, with parents who don't often know appropriate hunter show attire.
So turnout, even meeting PC standards, is different than at hunter shows.
As for the riding, that is my biggest pet peeve with PC these days. The "instructors" are downright scary, and some of the riding not much better.
Henry - I agree that, for many, having all the "right" show clothes isn't feasable. If your kid is only going to show once in a year, why WOULD you go and buy a jacket, etc.? However, that once a year kid CAN have their hair put up neatly, clothes clean and tack and horse sparkling. OP said they weren't clean or clipped - neither is expensive or unreasonable no matter how small the show is.
We go to some small barn shows, some local ciruit shows and some rated shows, and the expectation is always the same in our barn, except we reserve braiding for rated shows. Unfortunately, I've seen at least one area barn who doesn't seem to teach turnout either.
These are the people that you may have heard of - yes they are mostly event trainers but that tends to be pony club's focus. We also have young and rising trainers come in to teach. These are not necessarily people who are graduates of our club or any other pony club for that matter. They are competent qualified instructors.
It has been a bad winter and our club is planning on bringing in a hunter trainer to freshen up the equitation skills of the kids. So, I think it may be a regional thing. Our club is very conscious about teaching horsemanship. Of course, it is up to the kids and the parents to take advantage of all that is being offered.
Hunter Mom, the kids should be clipped. I don't care where you are going you should look presentable. They would be dinged in horse management at rallies Hard for showing up like that.
If they go to dressage rally many of them would have a show coat - it might be black but they would have a coat. So really there is no excuse other than the fact that the adults in charge aren't doing a good job.
This group is listed online on the USPC site as an actual USPC chapter. It really was sad. I felt so badly for these kids who were woefully unprepared. They show at this particular show each year as it's local to them, so there really isn't any excuse for the leader to not know what is expected. The leader in this case has been affiliated with their chapter for some time now.
I don't really expect everyone to show up wearing the best and latest fashions. I don't expect everyone to be on a fancy WB. I just felt like they really needed some help in the turnout realm. I'm thinking of volunteering to help them with it.
We give a "best turned out" award at our shows to encourage correct turn out. It is not about who has the most expensive clothes/tack! It is about CLEAN, neat, tidy and workmanlike! It is a passive way to let the kids (and their trainers) know that it is a horse SHOW and turn out IS important!! (many horses lost those nasty manure stains from one show to the next! Yeah! Success!!!)
The thing about smart people, is they look like crazy people, to dumb people.
I only asked because I have heard of rag-tag little outfits that call themselves pony clubs and are not actually affiliated with USPC. If that were the case, it'd be a little more understandable, as they aren't actually "governed" as such or whatnot.
Volunteering to help them would be great, but it can be a sticky situation, as they could easily take your suggestion of help the wrong way and be offended. Personally, I would do something like "hey, do you guys need another pair of helping hands? I love doing this kind of stuff!" versus an "I noticed you need help in xx and yy, mind if I pitch in?" And if/once you get "in," I would try to lead by quiet example rather than diving right in and telling people the right way to do things vs the wrong way.
Buuuuut, that is just me - I can be very stubborn/proud in many respects, so if someone had these opinions about my club and volunteered to help, I'd be a little less resistant to their assistance if they corrected whatever we were doing wrong in a quiet, helpful manner than in a "fix this, fix that, FIX IT!" way. Does that make sense?
I'm babbling, sorry. Long day/week/month, and I need a nap.
Any which way you go, good luck and I hope it works out for everyone! Good for you for trying to help
I agree with ohrebecca. We are lucky to have plenty of horsey parents in our club. But, if we had to rely on the non-horsey parents to get everything organized I can see where things could deteriorate.
I think it is great that you want to volunteer. PC can always use more helping hands. As long as you handle the situation tactfully they will probably be grateful for the help.
I was in PC up til 1999 and occassionally teach PC lessons at my current barn.
I think like others have said it really depends on the club and what they focus on.
At our PC turn out was important for lessons/clinics, rallies and shows. many of our riders did not only PC but were very competitive in dressage, h/j and eventing. Those that did PC and h/j learned the nuances of proper h/j turnout after a few shows, but never did they look untidy/unkempt.
We looked the part and so did our horses, and did i mention we did it all ourselves
I have seen rag-tag turnout everywhere and it can be from random lesson barns, to 4-H to PC it again all has to do with barn or club leadership.
\"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"