Top rider recalls Pony Club days

  • Polly Stockton enjoyed her Pony Club career with the Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn branch, starting at an early age and going on to represent her branch at the prestigious Pony Club championships.

    “I joined when I was about five, with my first pony, Flicker,” says Polly. “Camp was great fun. I remember water fights particularly — we use to get the instructors with the hosepipe. And we used to swim in the river on our ponies. I’m sure you wouldn’t be allowed to do that now.

    “When I was 13, I won a competition that qualified me for the championships at Weston Park. I was riding my mother’s eventer. I was tiny, like a pea on a drum, and so over-horsed that I didn’t do very well when I got there, but at the time I was thrilled and felt as though I’d qualified for the Olympics.

    “I also did a lot of tetrathlon. I enjoyed the shooting, but I hated the running, and the swimming was like the worst 3min of my life. Our trainers took it pretty seriously — as a teenager, I remember having to run three miles to the pool before starting swimming training. It was torture!”

    Among Polly’s worst memories of the period was failing her B test: “I was too young and I failed on my riding. I was absolutely mortified at the time.”

    However, despite this set back, Polly believes her time in the Pony Club gave her many useful experiences.

    “It was great learning to have a good time and riding different ponies. The team thing was definitely good and we did everything — eventing, show jumping, dressage and tetrathlon. Nowadays, some children seem to specialise in one discipline early on, which I think is a pity.

    “It was also competitive — if you weren’t in the area team, you just hadn’t made it! They were big things — like Badminton to us then.”

  • Don’t miss the current issue of Horse & Hound for the Pony Club memories of other top competitors, including William Fox-Pitt, Karen Bassett and Jane Holderness Roddam.

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