U.S. Pony Club Festival
Novice Eventing team with ribbons (L-R) Evelyn Juckett, Ethan Read, Grace Read, Clara Juckett, Cara Echternacht.
Every three years, the week-long U.S. Pony Club Festival is held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. More than 3,000 Pony Club members, volunteers, and families come together at this event, held July 17-24, 2017. The first three days are the National Championships in the eight disciplines represented at Pony Club (dressage, show jumping, games, polocrosse, tetrathlon, eventing, western dressage and quiz). Western Dressage made its debut at USPC Festival Championships this year. Then the education portion follows for the next 2½ days with mounted and unmounted clinics and workshops taught by Pony Club graduates, Olympians, and equine industry professionals.
USPC Festival kicked off with Opening Ceremonies on Tuesday evening (July 18) in the Rolex Arena. Members of the 40 Pony Club regions represented paraded into the arena and eventually spelled out USPC. Festival included a variety of clinics and learning opportunities, such as a biomechanics workshop, caring for the mature Pony Club mount, ratings workshops, and an early morning mock Foxhunt.
Author Julie Herman was at Festival to sign her latest book, Burned. It’s a middle grade novel featuring a trio of horse-crazy kids who have to come together to solve a mystery. Julie serves as Chief Horse Management Judge for USPC. She was also a D Camp special guest speaker. Find out more about Julie Herman and her Pony Club connections at: http://www.mysterygarden.com/
This year, three members of the West Tennessee Pony Club made the trip to compete in eventing, and stayed for the education portion of Festival. Ethan and Grace Read both qualified to compete on the Midsouth Region team at the Novice level in eventing. They were on a team with Cara Echternacht of Miami Valley PC (Cincinnati, OH), and Clara Juckett and Evelyn Juckett (SM), both from Covered Bridge PC (Louisville, KY).
This Midsouth Region Novice team was very competitive: they placed first out of 16 teams in Horse Management. Anyone who has attended a pony club rally will appreciate the effort and polish required for formal inspection at the C2 level! This team not only had zero points off at inspections, they amassed an amazing 18 “exceeds standards” during their formal inspections!
Team member Cara Echternacht received the award for the best turnout at her formal inspection at Eventing Rally – earning her the distinction of having the cleanest horse and cleanest tack, with best turnout of the entire Eventing Rally!
The Midsouth Region Novice team was also second out of 16 teams in the overall team rankings (a score which includes riding scores and HM scores), just one point behind the first place team. Ethan brought home a 4th place individual ribbon and Grace earned a 10th place individual ribbon.
Lauren Kloek stepped up to fill the demanding job of Stable Manager (SM) for the Midsouth Beginner Novice team. Lauren quite enjoyed the stable manager experience - she had never even been one before (the SM doesn't have to qualify, but does have to meet age and certification requirements for championships). Being SM for Eventing rally is quite challenging because Pony Club now incorporates a Vet Box at the end of the cross-country phase. The stable manager assists each member when they come in off the course. The horse and rider are quickly untacked; temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR) are measured by the vet team; and the SM, rider and other available team members walk, sponge, and cool the horse. The horse is re-assessed at regular intervals until its TPR values return to normal. And the Pony Club members do it all! There is no help allowed from parents, coaches or trainers. Lauren apparently did a great job as a stable manager, since her team came in fifth in Horse Management out of 15 teams! She thought she would be sad not having her own horse to ride, but found it very satisfying to assist each member in getting ready for their formal inspection – especially when they earned “exceeds standards” points at their inspections!
Championships by the numbers:
· 1061 participants
· 41 of 42 regions were represented (no members from Hawaii were able to make it this year)
· Two participants traveled to Festival from Anchorage, Alaska
· 39 Clinicians came to USPC Festival 2017
· 678 horses
· 81 members from the Midsouth Region
· 12 Horsemasters (adult pony clubbers)
After the conclusion of the USPC Championships, the pony clubbers had a half day to get ready for the education portion of Festival. Some mounted participants had to move to new stalls, some competitors didn’t stay for education, and some new members arrived for education. There was so much to do, as some education sessions kicked off early Saturday morning, starting with USDF 'S' judge, Axel Steiner's Biomechanics workshop.
On Saturday July 24, there was also a workshop for those wanting to become D examiners, a longeing workshop for pony clubbers wanting to achieve an A rating, presentations on caring for the mature horse, and a show-and-tell for members who had adopted horses from the New Vocations Challenge. Saturday evening concluded with a Masters Clinic presented by ever-popular, two-time Olympian and A Pony Clubber Lendon Gray. Not a person left their seat for the riveting two hours that she schooled three horses and riders of varying levels through their movements and answered questions afterward.
The following two days were intense sessions of education with many choices! Kids up to the D2 could sign up for D camp. They could attend the camp mounted or unmounted, and their days were chock full of fun games and learning more about riding and taking care of their horses.
Ten riders applied for and participated in Lendon Gray's specialized, intense Dressage 4 Kids program. These members each received special training from Lendon and were required to meet other educational requirements during Festival, including taking and presenting notes from other unmounted education sessions, demonstrating braiding and bandaging, taking notes during others’ rides and setting appropriate goals. These sessions were open to auditors all day long and were a popular destination for participants. Lendon conducts these programs all around the country. More information on her program can be found at dressage4kids.org.
Each mounted participant had four mounted sessions (two on Sunday and two on Monday) , and they had seven choices: Dressage, stadium, cross-country, distance riding, ground training, polocrosse, or games. There were ten dressage rings going throughout both days with 1-3 participants in each lesson. The ground training was conducted by the Kentucky mounted police unit, and involved working the horses through various obstacles, including walking over a mattress.
Distance riding participants were taught the basics of the sport, and then trotted along at a controlled pace behind the golf cart for 7.5 miles, all the while, counting their strides, changing between the left diagonal, right diagonal, and two-point position. They returned and measured their horse’s vital signs until they returned to normal and learned more about conditioning for the longer rides.
There were special sessions to learn to drive a pony, learn how to fence (part of the Modern Pentathlon in the Olympics, on which the Pony Club Tetrathlon discipline is based), and TREC-Adventure sport (www.trec-USA.org). There were also demonstrations of combined driving throughout both days. The kids could even participate in a mock Fox Hunt. At 6:30 a.m., the members of the local Kentucky Hunt Club came with their hounds and put on an excellent drag hunt.
Most kids chose several lessons in their usual discipline, and dipped their toes in to one or more other disciplines to try them out just for fun.
For unmounted and mounted participants, the choices for education were astounding. A few highlights included: Emma Ford, a graduate Pony Clubber and groom to Phillip Dutton, conducted five sessions on World Class Grooming - from managing in the stable, to braiding, clipping, and her personal show tips.
Daniel Stewart led sessions on rider fitness and sports psychology.
Several veterinarians imparted wisdom at many sessions on topics varying from equine dentistry to lameness to pre-purchase exams to acupuncture, and all topics in-between.
Education by the numbers:
· 39 D camp
· 257 mounted, including 16 adults
· 209 mounted, including 76 adults
· Total 505 participants
The learning and the fun camaraderie of meeting other pony club kids from all over the country was amazing. This schedule must have taken a ton of planning, with so many participants, choices and four sessions each day. And the great thing is, USPC allowed non-Pony Club participants this year.
The next Festival will be held in 2020, and the USPC plans to open the education portion again to non-Pony Club members. So whether you are in Pony Club or not, start making plans to attend another fabulous Festival and learn a lot about horses!
Find more information about U.S. Pony Club Festival at: https://www.ponyclub.org/Events/Festival/Default.aspx
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