A desire to regulate the growing sport of pony racing has led to the creation of a governing body for the discipline.
The Pony Racing Authority (PRA), chaired by Robert Waley-Cohen, was launched on 2 May. All recognised pony races in the UK will now be held under its jurisdiction.
The PRA board comprises representatives from the Masters of Foxhounds Association, the Racecourse Association and the Point-to-Point Secretaries’ Association. The Pony Club and Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) are “observing” members, but do not sit on the board proper.
PRA secretary Rebecca Morgan said: “The sport has grown hugely in three years and we need to formalise for consistency, safety and integrity.”
Pony racing was started in the UK in 2004 to encourage young people into racing. Races take place at special Pony Club racedays and point-to-point meetings. Children placed in these races qualify for a pony racing series held at licensed racecourses throughout the summer.
All children now wishing to race must join the PRA at a cost of £20 per year, which will provide them with insurance. Miss Morgan said compulsory membership will enable the PRA to monitor exactly how many children take part.
The pony racing series has grown from 12 races in 2005 to 20 this year, with a 24% increase in the number of point-to-points staging pony races in the past year.
Champion jump jockey AP McCoy described the popularity of the sport as “phenomenal”.
The Pony Club is now the official training arm of the PRA. Pony Club pony racing spokesman Joey Newton said: “We’re delighted by the formation of the PRA. We do not sit on affiliated bodies but look forward to working with them.”
Miss Morgan said there were several key issues the PRA would be looking at in the upcoming months, including jump racing.
“It’s not something I envisage will happen at present, given the safety aspect,” she said. “But we are looking into it for the long term.”
Taking pony racing to a wider audience is another key aim.
“The whole point of pony racing is to get more children interested in racing and I’d love to get riding schools from inner-city and urban areas involved,” she said.
An HRA spokesman told H&H: “We applaud anything that gets more people into racing. Pony racing has developed organically, but the PRA is a welcome step.”
This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (17 May, ’07)