Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: Red tape and risk-free rallies *H&H Plus*

  • The one constant amid the chaos wreaked on the Pony Club summer programme is the hawk-eyed Pony Club mum, says Tessa Waugh, as she doffs her hat to the admirable district commissioner

    Usually at this time of year, we would be getting ready for Pony Club camp. My feelings about this annual jamboree haven’t changed since childhood. The thought of it is horrendous, the camp itself is quite fun and everything is worthwhile for the elation you feel when it’s over for another year.

    Instead of camp, our branch of the Pony Club, the North Northumberland, is cranking up its summer programme with a series of flatwork lessons.

    Anyone who does anything volunteer-wise with children these days deserves a medal. The amount of red tape is unreal. Add a modern-day plague into the mix and you are talking serious headaches. While common sense tells us that children sitting apart on ponies in the fresh air must be fairly low risk, it is the responsibility of the organisers to ensure that everything is completely watertight.

    I was trying to be conciliatory when I said to Julia, our DC, that I usually run out of steam two sentences into the missals we receive from Pony Club head office.

    “If that’s what they’re sending to members, I can’t imagine the amount of material you have to deal with,” I added blithely.

    At which point, Julia – who had jumped all the necessary hoops to put this on – might have felt like flooring me with a speedy right hook but instead she simply replied, “You should read them because then you will understand why we are doing what we are doing.” Which was a sensible point, clearly made.

    I recalled the rambling email I sent her about cross-country rallies a couple of weeks ago. As I say, the woman deserves a medal.

    “You see,” she said, speaking calmly and slowly, “we are only allowed a certain number of children at one time. If one of the children falls off, due to the restrictions the instructor cannot help them. I am here for first aid and safeguarding.”

    I nodded but my head was already fried. As it was, something like 16 children were taught within the rules last week and the same will happen this week.

    Despite keeping the necessary distance from the arena and each other, the mums’ scene was much the same as ever. Two of the girls were on new ponies and their mothers were demonstrating that unique skill of Pony Club mums everywhere; their eyes were trained like blow torches on the ring while still maintaining a steady flow of chat.

    Rusty was on go-slow and had to be enticed into canter by the pony in front. Julia had put some hand gel out for us to use as we exited the gate. There is much that is different but plenty more that is the same, which is reassuring really.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 July 2020