The Pony Club is gearing up to fulfil its age-old tradition of grooming Olympic stars in the countdown to London’s 2012 Games. This positive message was carried at the annual Pony Club conference in Edinburgh last week, complete with the London 2012 promotional video, packed with equestrian footage.

An impressive 98% of Britain’s Olympians once wore a Pony Club badge. And in a relatively new twist, the next Pony Clubber to become an Olympic star might well be one of the 10,000 members who don’t even own their own ponies.

Funding was last year secured from Sport England to create 30 new Pony Club centres, enabling children without ponies to participate in Pony Club activities at affiliated riding schools.

There are now 406 centres, plus seven overseas — a huge success for the scheme, which was started in 1999. Centre members take part in mounted and non-mounted activities — from Pony Club tests and quizzes to inter-centre competitions such as polocrosse matches.

“The Pony Club is not all about achieving Olympic gold, but about children obtaining the best for themselves, from grass roots level,” explained Pony Club spokesman Candy Burnyeat.

Ian Stark, a guest speaker at the Pony Club conference, which was attended by 440 officials, was the first to applaud the initiative. The three-times Badminton winner told the conference his career was kick-started by a riding school pony called Bisto.

“Centres are a great idea — I couldn’t do Pony Club when I was a kid,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have the money or space to keep a pony, so it’s fantastic that they’re able to join the Pony Club from a riding school.”

  • Read more news from the Pony Club conference in Horse & Hound (16 March, ’06)
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