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Local riders shine in the U.S. Pony Club Championship

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Riders from Fallbrook and other local communities excelled at the U.S. Pony Club Championships on July 1-8 in Paso Robles. Tauni Beckmann, Southern California regional supervisor and Lake Elsinore resident, explained that the youth and adult riders competed as a team in various events, and that there were also individual awards.

Stephanie Unger, representing the Sandia Creek Ranch Pony Club Riding Center of Fallbrook in the adult division, placed first individually in the western dressage modified category, senior basic.

Unger paired with Emma Rosas, 11, for second place in the team category. Rosas also placed second as a youth individual representing Sandia Creek and won the “Tiny but Mighty” overall award.

Rosas also placed third in the quiz event for modified novice D. Quiz contestants are tested on horse management knowledge.

Two girls from the Whitebrook Farm PCRC in Hemet, Ryder Mosqueda and Kristen Nelson, each 10, placed third overall in dressage modified, black on teal category. Two others from Whitebrook, Natalie Nelson, 12, and Cassidy Ranes, 13, placed second in the dressage standard category. Others who placed on the Southern California entries were from Yorba Linda, Perris, Bonita, Las Vegas, and Boulder City

There are about 10,000 Pony Club members in 600 clubs and centers throughout the U.S. Along with an emphasis on helping its members learn to ride and care for horses, Pony Club promotes teamwork, a sense of responsibility, safety, good moral judgment and self-confidence.

The U.S. Championships were held as a national event in 2021 in Kentucky. This year and next, they will be held on both the East and West coasts. In 2024, the event will return to the single site in Kentucky.

Beckmann said the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. was started in 1954 to teach riding and the proper care of horses. It is based on The British Pony Club, which was created in 1929 as a junior branch of the Institute of the Horse. Since then, Pony Club has expanded to many countries around the world, with the main goal being to promote sportsmanship, stewardship and leadership through horsemanship.

Back in 1929, the term “pony” was used to describe the mount of a youth equestrian. With a name steeped in the tradition of educating the next generation of equestrians, the name Pony Club continues to focus on education and quality care of both horses and ponies.

In the last decade, Pony Club has strengthened programming to meet the needs of equestrians of all ages. This has included offering Pony Club through established riding centers, expanding certifications to include the disciplines of dressage and show jumping, bringing in western disciplines, adding educational opportunities at the grassroots level through developed standardized curriculum and additional online education, and including land conservation in the standards of proficiency.

Sandia Ranch was one the first Pony Club to become a Pony Center, giving more young people the opportunity to participate.

“It used to be only for people who could afford lessons,” Beckmann said. “Frankly, the sport was dying, but the centers have brought new life to the sport. It gave an avenue for training at a discount rate. Families don’t have to buy a $5,000 saddle, their own trailer and truck to haul it.”

Another change in recent years is the age of participants. “For years, it was for ages 5-16, then 5-18, 5-21, 5-25 and finally four and older,” Beckmann said. “Adults are welcome in the program.”

Beckmann grew up in Fallbrook and participated in the Fallbrook Pony Club, which still exists. She said clubs and centers are also located in Poway, Hemet, Ramona, Elfin Forest, and San Juan Capistrano. Each is a nonprofit organization. There are about 300 members in 20 clubs/centers in Southern California, with 60% through centers rather than clubs.

Safety is always stressed, Beckmann said, and participants wear a helmet when on or near a horse.

Many of the nation’s top equestrians, including several Olympic team members, business professionals, government leaders and career military officers, have roots in Pony Club.

Pony Club has expanded their expertise to over 11 specialty disciplines to include eventing, show jumping, hunter seat equitation, dressage, western dressage, gymkhana, games, fox hunting, polocrosse, quiz, vaulting, polo, tetrathlon (swimming, running, shooting and show jumping) in 42 regions throughout the country.

For more information, visit southerncalifornia.ponyclub.org.

 

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