HOYS organisers have announced their intention to invite the winners of the first ever running of the Prince Philip Cup to this year’s Horse of the Year Show, to celebrate the Pony Club’s 75th anniversary.
The games were first held in 1957, at the instigation of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. He had suggested to the then HOYS show director Col. Sir Mike Ansell that games for children along the lines of the cavalry Skill at Arms competitions would be engaging as well as enhancing riding skills.
The Prince Philip Cup was introduced 47 years ago at HOYS as an enduring challenge trophy, and the Pony Club was given the opportunity to promote and manage this exciting competition.
While the Skill at Arms competition required cavalry men to compete in competitions that proved their battle skills, the Prince Phillip Cup requires sprightly young things to leap on and off ponies, legs flailing, as they execute the most finely balanced manoeuvres
“What the army were doing with skill at arms was reinterpreted for children. It wasn’t simply a matter of being able to control a horse. The ethos was deemed to be one of camaraderie, team work and sportsmanship, as well as sparking enthusiasm among young riders,” explains Mike Gill, director of Grandstand Media, the organisers of HOYS.
The first running of the event was restricted to 40 Pony Club teams based “in the vicinity of London”, and there was no qualifying process. Col. Ansell emphasised in a committee meeting, that if the scheme were accepted, “it was bound to become an annual event”.
And while the team from the North West Kent branch of the Pony Club went on to become the inaugural winners of the competition in 1957, the games did indeed to develop into an intrinsic part of the annual equestrian extravaganza.
“The establishment of the Prince Philip Cup represented the first time that Pony Club members, or children of that age indeed, could be in the spotlight at a major event such as HOYS,” says Gill.
“From that point, the concept of mounted games has developed to be one of the most popular elements of Pony Club competition.
“The Cup was started along very traditional lines, and for this very reason, we thought that as it is the 75th anniversary of the Pony Club, it would be great to track down the original four team members who won the event in 1957, as a tribute both to them and to the Pony Club,” Gill adds.