The Pony Club’s Annual Conference was held on March 5th at Epsom Downs Racecourse and welcomed around 500 delegates to it’s a jam-packed line up, expertly compèred by equestrian commentator Mike Tucker.
With the 85th Anniversary year a firm focal point, the day acted as a chance to celebrate everything that’s great about The Pony Club, as well as looking to the future. The day was opened by the new Chairman, Mary Tuckett, former Area 12 Representative, District Commissioner and Pony Club Mum! Mary spoke on many of the projects that are being taken forward following the 2013 Strategic Review, including an improved governance structure, increased staffing at national level, improved systems for volunteers and a re-focussed view on training as The Pony Club’s main remit.
Continuing along the training theme, Pony Club Training Chairman William Blane FBHS, spoke about The Pony Club’s progressive staircase that encourages and motivates older Members to become coaches within their Branches and Centres. William also spoke on the new Rider Development Pathway, supported by the Sport England funded BEF Excel Talent Programme, due to get underway shortly commenting “This is a great opportunity for our most talented young riders, who will have the opportunity to really develop their skills which will be a real bonus in their Pony Club competitions during the year”.
The pathway The Pony Club provides could clearly be seen in the success stories who also took part in the day talking about their Pony Club experiences, including Junior European Gold Medallist Yasmin Ingham from the Isle of Man Branch of The Pony Club, and National Ladies Point to Point Champion Jacqueline Coward a former Member of the Vale of York Branch of The Pony Club, who commented that The Pony Club “definitely helped with my Point to Point career, and we should try and encourage all young people to go to Pony Club”.
Several of the Pony Club Ambassadors were also a part of the day’s line up speaking on what Pony Club has meant to them, and why they are proud to be a part of the scheme that gives them the opportunity to present a young person’s perspective to many of the discipline committee’s and projects that The Pony Club is undertaking. “Leadership is just one example of how The Pony Club experience helps you in life in general” commented Ailbhe McCormack from the Wormwood Scrubs Branch, “We would like to thank The Pony Club for all the opportunities it has given us and we really look forward to giving something back”.
The afternoon session provided some great entertainment with Christine Morgan-Owen, who played a big part in the re-development of The Pony Club after its renovation at the end of World War two. In 1947, Christine was a teenager who had just completed a Secretarial course, and worked in the London office of the British Horse Society for the next 18 years. She was given the daunting task of “sorting out The Pony Club”; a job which led on to her becoming The Pony Club’s official secretary in 1952!
All round favourite Julian Seaman, equestrian commentator and author, also gave the audience plenty to laugh about with his recollections of his Pony Club days, the highs and lows of his eventing career and many of the equestrian ‘hats’ he has worn in life.
A revised question and answer time saw delegate’s engaging and ‘posting’ their ideas onto discussion boards which carried four hot topics. “We were really pleased with how everyone got involved with the discussion boards concept” comments Mary Tuckett. “We have had some fantastic feedback and there are some clear themes that we will be following up on. We hope to make the Conference even more interactive in 2015 so watch this space!”