Young riders will be able to stay in the Pony Club until they are 25 after a decision by the organisation to raise its upper age limit. The move will encourage members in their early 20s to complete their Pony Club tests and compete as individuals, although they will not be allowed to join teams.
“Young people go off to do their three years at university, having perhaps not finished all their tests,” says Judy Edwards, the Pony Club’s acting chief executive. “They’ll now be able to come back and take their A test.
“It’s thought that extending the age could also encourage them to return as helpers and volunteers. It’s going to be a pilot scheme and we’ll see how it works.”
The 21 to 25-year-old members will be known as associate members — a term that was used until two years ago for 18 to 21-year-old Pony Clubbers. New members will not be allowed to join after the age of 21, but anyone who has been in the Pony Club at any time can rejoin at the later age.
The Pony Club currently has 34,000 members. It also has 8,200 centre members, who do not own a pony but are attached to riding schools on the scheme. In 2001, the organisation had 31,340 members and 5,412 centre members. Edwards denies the new age limit is a ploy to boost membership figures, and anticipates that the take-up will be “probably in the hundreds rather than thousands”.
The idea was mooted at the 2004 Pony Club conference at Cheltenham, and the decision to go ahead was taken after District Commissioners circulated a questionnaire to senior members. Some 90% of the 256 respondents said they would be interested in staying on. Most respondents thought that 25, as opposed to 23, was the better cut-off age.