Many of the world’s best riders in all disciplines cut their teeth at the Pony Club Championships. Catherine Austen discovers some of their memories and the lessons they learnt
If you said the words Stoneleigh, Weston Park, Sansaw, Shelford and Cholmondeley, thousands of adults across half a century of generations would know what you meant. When they were horse-mad teenagers, those were the locations of the Pony Club Championships of their era. While for many those heady weeks were the acme of their equestrian careers, they were also an early testing ground for many of the regular stars of this magazine.
“It was everything!” says Laura Collett, who first represented the Heythrop branch of the Pony Club at the championships as a 13-year-old in 2003. “The areas were such a cool thing, and to qualify for the championships was just amazing. I remember the cross-country course being ginormous. I didn’t know how to get my pony [Noble Springbok] on the bit, but I did jump a double clear.”
In 2004 and 2005, she won her eventing section on the Lucey family’s highly experienced Walnut, who took a series of children safely round the championships. In one of those years, the Heythrop team, consisting of Laura, Ginny Howe, Simon Lucey and Sophie Kirkpatrick, also won.