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A motivational sign at the Pony Club championships was taken down after “mixed reaction” online.

The banner, which read “Keep Kicking”, was one of a number of motivational phrases on display at Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire, for the championships, which ran from 17 to 21 August.

The idea was to promote the Pony Club’s mentoring scheme at the championships, and the aim of the “Keep Kicking” sign was to “encourage positive riding”.

But after various people commented on the sign on social media, describing the use of the phrase as “shameful” and “appalling”, among other comments, the Pony Club today (22 August) released a statement saying it had been taken down.

“The Pony Club is aware that there has been mixed reaction from various perspectives around the sign,” it read.

“We thought it would be helpful to explain that the sign was part of a series of motivational phrases displayed to promote the mentoring scheme at the Championships. The scheme is a Pony Club initiative sponsored by NFU Mutual, but the Pony Club would like to confirm the sign had not been approved by NFU Mutual.

“‘Keep Kicking’ is used as a motivational statement within the Pony Club. The phrase is used to encourage positive riding, often as support to young riders who are experiencing extreme nervousness or performance anxiety.

“Gentle kicking or a light inward nudge encourages the pony to move forward to enable both to continue working together and proceed with the task ahead. It is used in a context to motivate, inspire and give confidence.”

Other riders praised the “excellent” standard of riding at the championships, pointed out the phrase is a well-known one in the horse world and that it does not mean “boot the living daylights out of it”, and said the signs were “welcoming and motivational”.

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But, the statement added, once NFU Mutual and members of the public made the Pony Club aware the phrase “had or could cause offence”, the sign was “quickly removed within an hour”.

It concluded: “The Pony Club and NFU Mutual have had a relationship for more than 20 years, championing and encouraging positive and good horse ownership and riding practices in the UK.”

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