Andrea Oakes looks at what it takes to pass your Pony Club A test — and whether it is still worth investing the time
The A test — the pinnacle of the Pony Club’s training system — has long been held in high esteem by members. But does this prestigious qualification still cut the mustard in today’s equestrian industry?
Described as “a comprehensive assessment of horsemanship and training of young horses”, the Pony Club A test is open to members aged 18-plus who have already demonstrated a thorough knowledge of horse care by passing their AH test.
Candidates must ride a number of unknown horses during the A test exam, which is divided into four sections.
The “outside riding” phase comprises schooling on the flat before tackling a 1.10m showjumping track. You must then ride boldly and effectively across country, over different fence types such as skinnies, corners and water.
For the “inside riding” phase you must show a clear understanding of the principles of training on the flat, performing movements including travers and walk pirouette. Next comes a practical lungeing session, followed by a discussion on training the young horse.
Throughout, candidates must assess each horse’s way of going and offer suggestions for his further development.
“The challenge is in not only reaching the required standard in all of these areas, but demonstrating it all on one day,” says Pony Club training officer Jenny Cowen. “It’s a true all-round qualification.”
The A test is equivalent to stage 4 of the British Horse Society (BHS) riding and horse-care exams — and can earn you exemption up to that level.
Dressage rider Paul Friday, who recalls the “nerve-racking” process of gaining his A test, feels that it produces a more practical, competitive rider.
“I did mine at the same time as my BHS stage 4, but found the A test much harder to pass,” explains Paul. “The A test candidates seemed more able to produce a horse for eventing — many had competed to a high level and some were of FEI or European championship standard.
“I would certainly take notice of someone with an A test pass.”
According to eventer Jonty Evans, who also holds the qualification, the exam is still very relevant for a career with horses.
“If someone came to me for a job interview with an A test, I would be far more influenced by and impressed with that than with the bulk of more modern-day qualifications and degree courses,” says Jonty. “From my experience, it is not gained in a classroom situation. You need an extensive practical knowledge behind you before you can even take the test — it’s the culmination of a Pony Club career.
“If you have the time and opportunity to take it, I would highly recommend the A test.”
Visit www.pcuk.org to find out more
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (30 October 2014)