Worried parents have raised concerns about the weight limits set in the Pony Club’s pony racing series.
The restrictions, based on those for mounted games, were set by the Pony Club in consultation with the Jockey Club. The maximum is 8st 7lb for the 13.2hh and under class and 9st 4lb for the 14.2hh and under class, including clothes, hat, boots and saddle. An extra 2lb is allowed for body protectors.
One mother and former District Commissioner says: “We had members competing at Plumpton. A 15-year-old of slight build resorted to a crash diet and saunas to get her weight down.”
Pony Club chairman Mary Anderson says: “When establishing this series, we were very concerned with achieving the right weights for the welfare of the children and ponies.
“We took into account evidence from racing and other disciplines — and the fact that racing is looking for the jockeys of the future.”
To be considered for the British Racing School, riders (aged 16-22) must weigh less than 9st 7lb.
The average weight of a 15-year-old boy, according to the Department of Health, is 9st 7lb; the average girl 9st 2lb. The Pony Club limits might therefore look tight, until compared with Ireland, where pony racing is well established.
The maximum weight there is 8st, or 7st 7lb in the 12.2hh class. No allowance is made for the body protector.
Ernest Tyner, Ireland’s southern region secretary, says: “When they’re old enough, most child jockeys go on to take out licences.”
Interest in the Pony Club series, which is half way through, has been high: all races have been balloted.
Lynne Burgess, whose daughter won a class at Plumpton, says: “It was the best day of our lives. Even though she’s large for her pony, Jennifer weighed in fine. But a few at our branch didn’t make the weight or have a suitable pony.”
“We need to look at what the series is aiming at,” says Isabelle Bramham, whose son, Richard, raced at Plumpton. “Racecourses won’t put pony racing on unless it’s going to produce something for the sport.”
The Pony Club and Jockey Club are planning to review weight restrictions at the end of the series.