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“Help”, reads the headline on the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Pony Club branch’s website.

It’s a plea for assistance to prepare an old laundry on the Dalmeny Estate that serves as kitchen, dormitory and dining room for camp, but Kim Gordon fears only the usual four or five faces will react.

The branch has even gone so far as to say deposits will only be returned if parents and members attend to help set up and clear away after camp.

These strong-arm tactics are necessary, otherwise few would help, said Mrs Gordon, who resigned as district commissioner (DC) earlier this year.

“I’ve noticed this [change in] attitude over the past three years,” she told H&H. “Before that, people seemed more willing to help.”

Horse & Hound surveyed 25 Pony Club branches to see if Mrs Gordon’s experience is widespread – 18 said they were having increased problems finding volunteers.

Parents no longer seem to understand the “self-help” ethos of the Pony Club, said Badsworth DC Charles Warde-Aldam.

“There’s a perception that you pay your money and turn up,” he said.

And the Bedale and West of Yore Hunts branch reports that, with many more working mothers, finding parents who can commit to a week at camp is difficult.

“They are not willing to use up a week’s leave on camp,” added DC Victoria Thomas.

Pony Club headquarters has the same problem, said spokesman Clare Walkeden.

“Trying to get volunteers for our championships has been more of a task than
previously,” she said. “People seem to have so much on.”

Other branches cite the rise of non-horsey parents who lack the confidence to offer to help out or don’t understand how Pony Club works.

New trends causing problems

  • More working mothers and parents able to offer less time
  • Increased specialisation and professionalism among members
  • Shorter, more intensive training demanded
  • Parents expect to pay up and be provided with a service
  • Parents demand more sophisticated accommodation and horse facilities
  • Children have more outside activities
  • High cost of diesel means less keen to travel
  • Waning interest in horse care among members and more focus on competition

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