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West Tennessee Pony Club Teaches Youth Responsibility by Kevin DeBusk The West Tennessee Pony Club motto, reading, riding and responsibility is the key to their success with youth. The Club just finished an outstanding showing at the regional Rally, June 18-24 in Lexington, Kentucky. "What Pony Club teaches kids is what drives me," said past District Commissioner Barbara Wowk. "There's more to Pony Club than riding. It stresses horse management and teaches the kids to do it correctly. With Pony Club you're not taking riding lessons you're actually taking lessons in life. "They have to learn how to get somewhere on time. At Rally it's all done without parents help. There's no mom go back to the car and get my whip, mom do this do that. They go in teams and learn how to be self-sufficient and help each other." "The Pony Club takes its name based on the British Pony Club," West Tennessee District Commissioner Brenda Rachor said. "We use the term pony for any mount ridden by a youngster, even if they are eighteen or nineteen years old. Pony Club reflects the age of the rider not the size of the horse. "Part of the Pony Club philosophy is that fun and fair competition is an important part of learning horse sports and horsemanship. Every year our region has a Rally that is made up of smaller Rallies and that's what we work toward." Rallies are Pony Club competitions that combine several aspects of the sport. These include show jumping, dressage and combined training. Combined training includes both stadium and cross country jumping. "They also have to take a written test and they are judged on their horse management, Brenda said. "They are judged on how clean and healthy the horse is. They are judged on how they take care of the equipment. Their tack has to be properly adjusted and safe. "Once they get to a Rally the parents drop them off in the isle and move the heavy equipment and then go away. The youngster's themselves have to set up a tack room, take care of their horses, get themselves dressed and to competition on time. They also have to help get their teammates dressed and to the competition on time. Then they have to come back and cool out their horses and clean their tack before going back to check and see how well they did that. "All of that they do with no parental assistance. There are people they call horse management judges who are there to watch they young ones to make sure they are doing things safely and see if they need any help, but by enlarge when they go to Rally they have to do everything themselves. It's really a wonderful experience for them. "The primary goal is for them to learn to take care of their horses. They learn that the horse's welfare is the most important. If something is wrong with your horse your not going to push it to go into a test it shouldn't go into. "When they get to Rally generally they are divided into three member teams and a horse manager. The horse manager is like a horse show mom. The horse manager's job is to make sure when they go through final inspection they are ready and to help take care of the horses. It's a real important job." In preparation for Rally members attended several practices and a mini Rally June 16 at the Wowk residence in Cordova, Tennessee. "Barbara Wowk spent several months having the D level participants come out and take written tests and make sure they learned how to keep their tack and themselves clean and presentable. She helped them work on their dressage, stadium and cross-country. " Barbara Wowk is a former District Commissioner for West Tennessee. Sarah Wolf, who has her HA rating, also worked with the group most of the spring. "It seems we have been just focusing on Rally over the last few months but we also bring in people who give riding clinics and have a horse show fund raiser," Brenda said. "We're looking forward to the rest of the summer having fun and maybe some fun shows." Pony Club members are rated based on their knowledge and experience. "There are nine levels," she said. "They start at D1 and go to D3. Then they go to C1 and go to C2. The C3 is given by the region and is much more difficult and respected. Pony Clubs idea would be to get every Pony Club member to the C3 rating. Then you would know you have developed competent horseman, who knows the basics of taking care of horses and themselves. "The next rating after that is the B rating. That's a national rating and not many people pass that. After that you have HA and A rating. Not many people make it to the A rating. It's quiet an accomplishment to make it that high." Of those attending Rally, June 18-24 in Lexington, Kentucky, West Tennessee had seven D2 members, three D3 and two HA receive awards. "The main competition is a team competition," Brenda said. "They also give individual awards. They also give first and second horse management awards and that's really a coveted prize. It means that your team has done the best on their tests and the best on management. "We couldn't do this without the parents. Many of these parents have been getting up really early and putting horses on trailers and getting their child where they needed to be and getting the grounds ready." Results from June 18-24 are as follows: Dressage Rally Jordan Oldham (D2), Jessica Gaston (D3), Sarah Wolf (HA). Stable manager: Alex King (D2) 5th Place Team Jessica Gaston - 5th place Musical Freestyle; Sarah Wolf 10th Individually; 1st Musical Freestyle. Combined Training Rally D2 Team (Division A): Jordan Oldham, Chelsey Vance, Megan House. Stable manger: Jessica Gaston (D3) 6th Place Team Jessica Rachor Training Division. D2 Team (Division B): Laura Meyer, August Marshall, Caitlin Carlson. Stable manager: Rachel Carlson 1st place Team and 1st place Horse Management: Laura Meyer 1st place individually; August Marshall 3rd place individually. D3 Team: Jackie Gaston, Courtney Gruenwald. 2nd place Team and 2nd place Horse Management: Jackie Gaston 3rd individually. Jessica Rachor (HA) 2nd place Training Division.

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