Retired JA ponies are enjoying a new career teaching children and RDA youngsters at a Cheltenham riding centre.

The BHS-approved Playmate Children’s Riding School, whose pupils are aged between two and 12, has a number of former champions among its residents.

“It makes a big difference teaching on a nicely schooled pony – they are steady, smooth and balanced,” said Lou Swambo, whose own children compete on the jumping circuit.

“Victory Bay teaches everyone to canter and is a favourite with the little children. The bigger ones prefer Claudesway and Cabra Lass. They are ideal because they are all very polite.”

Irish-bred 12.2hh Victory Bay, now 22 years old, had a glittering career on the jumping circuit where he notched up £3,565 in winnings, won at the Pony of the Year Show 1998 and was placed at Hickstead. He arrived at the riding school in autumn 2002, having been diagnosed with ringbone.

His owner Angela Brierley-Barton, said: “If he was left in the field he would have stiffened up and would probably have had tobe put down. Ponies don’t have to end their lives when they finish jumping – they can mellow out and get used to doing a different job. With tiny tots on board they are like changed ponies.”

Twelve-year-old Cabra Lass enjoyed major success in Ireland before coming to England to jump. An injury halted her jumping career two years ago and vets suggested putting her in light work, and she has thrived at the centre.

Chesnut 12.2hh Claudesway, 17, came to Playmate having gone off competitive jumping, after accumulating more than £1,000 in BSJA winnings and is popular with the centre’s older riders.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (23 January 2003), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.