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Talented young riders are to be offered specialist training in a new Pony Club (PC) scheme.

The new Rider Development Pathway scheme will involve 9 regional assessment and training days, held over the Easter holidays, these are open to Pony Club members aged 12-18 years who meet the minimum criteria in the 3 Olympic disciplines.

The 3 most talented riders at each day will attend a free national camp in the summer.

The initiative has been launched after a number of district commissioners (DCs) complained about the difficulty of retaining older members, as children are increasingly turning to affiliated competition (news, 1 August 2013).

Judy Edwards, Pony Club chief executive, told H&H the scheme would be “looking for members with ability, not necessarily the child who has the best animal”.

However, some Pony Club volunteers have raised concerns that the new scheme is too “elitist”.

For members between the age of 15-18 to be eligible for the eventing pathway, the rider must be competing consistently at PC open or British Eventing novice or above. They must have completed 4 double clears with a dressage score of 65%.

“We just don’t have any children at that level to put forward,” one DC said. “I don’t think it does enough to encourage most ‘normal’ members.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (20 March 2014)