The first dedicated pony racing meeting, with a six-race card for children only, took place last week. Organised by the South Dorset branch of the Pony Club at the local hunt’s point-to-point at Milborne St Andrew, the event attracted 45 entries from 26 branches.
Some children were racing for the first time; others are fast becoming “old hands” by taking advantage of this spring’s series of pony races at point-to-points and last summer’s inaugural races at licensed tracks.
Louly Thornycroft, Pony Club area representative for Wessex and the Channel Isles, who chaired the organising committee, said: “The sun shone, the course looked wonderful and there was a real atmosphere of enjoyment. There was a great buzz in the lorry park after the races from winners and losers alike.”
Jockeys had to be Pony Club members aged between 11-15, and they came from as far afield as Wales, Sussex and Cornwall. Family, hunting, show jumping, team chasing, working hunter, mounted games and polo ponies were among the mounts, which were divided into two height groups — 138cm and under and 148cm, with lightweight, novice and open divisions in each.
Though children are competing for fun, the “serious” objective of providing a training ground for youngsters is also being met.
South Devon West branch member Hadden Frost, 14, who won the lightweight 148cm and under Dorchester Car Radios Sweepstake, said: “If I can make the weight, I want to be a flat jockey, and doing these races gives me a two-year headstart. I’ve learnt such a lot already: I’ve got a lot stronger towards the finish, and I am pacing myself better.”
The other five race winners were: Charlotte Hayes, 12 (Taunton Vale Harriers branch); William Selfe, 13 (South Dorset Hunt); Ferne Jones, 13 (Neath Hunt); Hannah Clarke, 13 (South Dorset Hunt), and Paddye Grove, 12 (Vine).