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My pony club story

My pony club story

A young girl leading a pony.
Member of Yass Pony Club 2011. Photo: Leisa, Pony Club Association of New South Wales.

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For more than 80 years, young Australians have ridden, cared for and had fun with horses at their local pony club. Some have gone on to become Olympic equestrians; others remember it as a great time spent with friends (both two-legged and four).

Share your pony club story before 19 November 2014 as part of our Horses in Australia project, for the chance to win one of five double passes to our exhibition Spirited: Australia's Horse Story.

Contributions will feature in the exhibition, which opens in Canberra in September 2014, and on our website. A small number of contributions may also be selected to be featured on the Australian Broadcasting Commission's (ABC's) Bush Telegraph website or radio program.

Send us your photo with a story or a story on its own. Once it is uploaded, share your photo on Twitter using #nmahorses.

Your stories and photos

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Lia and Delilah
Lia and Delilah
Written by Lia Gaspari's story: I've been riding at pony club ever since I was 3 years old. I am now up to my 3rd pony Delilah who I got in January. I recently came overall champion at 2014 Sutton gymkhana. I really enjoy sporting and my favourite one is the barrels. I also like the jumping and I do lots of practice at home and now I am hoping to move up to D grade.

I really love horses and they have been a major part of my life, I can't imagine my life without them.

Dusty and Takira
Dusty and Takira
I started pony club when I was about 3yrs so I have been doing it for 10yrs. I go to Gearys Gap Pony Club for zone 16. I now ride on my horse Dusty (one in the photo) and I have only had him for about a month. I compete in a lot of pony club events and jump 'D'; grade and hope to go higher. Horses are a big part of my life as I have been doing it since I was 1.
My favourite discipline is probably eventing because I like dressage and love show-jumping and cross-country and I love it all combined.

Rocky, the heart winner
Rocky, the heart winner
Bronwyn's story: Rocky may only be 11.3 hands high, but he has a heart as big as a lion! Rocky has been part of our family for the past 7 years since he was a scruffy 2 year old and has barely missed a rally day at Kilkivan Pony Club, Qld in that time. Both he and our eldest daughter learnt all the ropes of riding together, and they became firm friends and still are - sure, there were a few busters along the way but that was all part of the learning process. He has been to hundreds pony club events, camps and rallys, tackling every discipline with a 'Yeah, this is easy!' attitude - sporting, dressage, jumping, x-country, team-penning, polo cross and been to State Mounted Games. There's barely been a time we have taken him somewhere that someone hasn't wanted to slip him onto their truck and take him home.
Today our youngest daughter, 9 year old Tilly, rides Rocky (pictured) and his naughty pony antics have all but given way to a superbly behaved pony wherever he goes. His lion-leart demeanor belies his tiny size as he takes Tilly around the cross country and jump courses (up to 90cm!)...they have become a great team and absolutely love it! On our farm Rocky musters sheep and cattle twice his size.
With no breeding that we know of (there might be some Timor Pony or Welsh in him) and Qld Itch which is kept at bay with his hoody-rug, he could be just any old bush pony but he is so much more than that! He is a little gentleman with a big personalty - and the white love heart on his head makes him that pony every little child wants to know. We often hear kids say - 'There's Rocky!' and come running up to him to say Hello'.
Rocky has won our hearts and those of many others and is one very special pony club pony.

My daughter Jodi on Inkerman
My daughter Jodi on Inkerman
Chris Hill (nee Hawkins)'s story: My Pony Club experience lasted for over 50 years so is a bit hard to fit into 700 words! It began when I was about 12 and joined Box Hill Pony Club in Melbourne where I became more proficient thanks to the help of greats like Joan and Molly Pearson, Jess Tomlinson, Mary Williamson and of course Kaye Irving. Then at 17 my family moved and joined Dandenong Ranges PC and it was there I began my serious Pony Club experience, sitting my various Test levels and finally gaining my A test and up to B Instructors Certificate. I was competing in Pony Club One Day Events and shows nearly every weekend and I was teaching at various other Clubs as well including Lang Lang, Cranbourne and others and doing Schools all around Australia, including Deniliquin, Alice Springs and all over Tasmania. During this time I was also judging at Pony Club events of all kinds and Shows around Australia. I was fortunate to have the interests of my parents too who both became very involved, especially Dad (Alec Hawkins) who was on the State Body. I also began examining Pony Clubbers for their Tests up to B Standard.

Moving to SA after my marriage my involvement diminished until my own children joined Mt Pleasant Pony Club here in SA and began competing and I resumed instructing.We then joined Marne Valley Pony Club. My eldest daughter Jodi Hill was successful at State level Eventing and Dressage and went to the National Championships as Junior Dressage Team Captain. My younger daughter, Kylie, just wanted to have fun at Pony Club and the serious competition didn't really interest her. I am disappointed and concerned at the direction Pony Club has taken lately and know it is is not how it was intended to be. Competition has taken over from fun as a priority and I'm sure Kaye Irving would be turning over in her grave at the way it has evolved. It has become a rich persons' area and inexpensive gear is frowned upon. Too much emphases is now put on quality and cost of equipment at competitions and it is losing site of the fact that it is primarily just a Youth Movement, albeit based on horses and riding and learning about the care and safety of horse and rider, and having fun.

I have many photos of my Pony Club years and those of my daughters' but as I am about to move again they are packed,except for one of Jodi competing in Pony club Eventing Championships, so if more are required it will take me some time to find which box and where they are!

To finish, I loved my time with Pony clubs and made some life-long friends. I remember waking up on Pony Club days with a feeling of excitement and anticipation of the day ahead. It helped shape my career, which has been totally around horses.

Glen Innes Pony Club Camp 1957
Glen Innes Pony Club Camp 1957
Carol's story: My pony club days started back in the 1950's at Glen Innes. The only activity for the year was the Annual camp held in January and this was an event not to be missed. I can remember that beforehand my sister and I had to ride our horses to be shod some 12 miles each way to the farrier. Mum would pack our saddlebags with smoko and a bottle of milo - I remember the horror of taking of the lid of the milo bottle only to find that there were congealed balls of butter floating on the top of the milk as the motion of the horse had turned the good cows milk into butter balls.

No horse floats to get to town - so it was always riding to and from Glen Innes the 10 miles for the camp. My photo taken in 1957 at the Glen Innes camp shows the senior and junior age champions. You can see natural presentation was the go - no plaiting - just make sure they were clean, brushed and tidy!!

60 years down the track you could say that I have enjoyed all facets of Pony club - a rider - a mum - a grandparent, an instructor, an administrator, an Australian representative at International Pony Club events and now member of the Pony Club Australia board.
Live the dream - you never know where it will take you - that's Pony Club - It's fun!!

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Your stories

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24 Sep 2014
'Is your mother here with you ?' Standing with my baby son on my hip at the canteen of the Forrest Hills Pony Club (Duffys Forest, Sydney) I said 'I am a mother'. I was 24 beginning my first only year of Pony Club - the age rule kicked in at 25. Coming late to the sport I was pretty hopeless at the games. 'Fatty' my lovely Arabian thought any speed over a slow canter was undignified. But in 1989 we had the time of our lives. I was nearly 10 years older than the next member, but the children were welcoming. There was a fabulous philosophy of mucking in, encouragement; looking out for one another. And getting back on if you fell. Broken bones were fixed later. Pony Club mums (members) are tough!


18 Aug 2014
My story is about Guyra Pony Club and the achievements of those that have competed in and for the club.
Guyra Pony Club has only ever been a small club with numbers varying from 22 in the 1960's to about 70 at it's peak. The average would be about 40. The Club had their first camp in 1959 and have run annually ever since. Guyra also has various activities throughout the year.We are only a small town of about 2500 residents plus the surrounding district. The club relies heavily on the rural people of the area and it's fortunes tend to fluctuate with the agricultural sector.
The sporting achievements of our club members,after progressing through the ranks,probably would be unrivaled any club in Australia. I will give a brief summary of the achievements with the member's names attached.
Dianne Newberry (nee Mulligan)
Many Royal Show Champions in Hacking and Riding Classes and ASHS Events including Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Also Director of ASHS.

Ray Mulligan, Phillip Snell Dean Mulligan and Peter Mills.
Numerous Australian Championships in various Rodeo events.Also between them they have represented Australia at Calgary Stampede as well as representing NSW and holding records in the timed events.

Campdrafting. Ray Mulligan rode for Qld in State of Origin Campdraft winning the Cut-Out.

Polocrosse: The Grills family have fourteen members who have represented Australia, both here and Overseas.Peter, Roger,Lucy, Jim, Ben, Brad, Adam, Dean, Abbott,Matthew, Gabby, Sarah and Rebecca have all been representatives.
Charlie Grills has also been a Coach for Australia when Overseas and coached Canada at the World Cup.
Harry Kirk, also a member of this family has played for Australia.

Tim & Gemma Rice won numerous Showjumping events(NSW Pony Club C'ships).
Neil Harvey (Home Member Armidale PC) Australian elite showjumper and Record Holder, always attended Guyra Pony Club Camp to gain extra instruction.

Lindsay Mulligan went on to make his mark as a topline cricketer representing : Australian Emus NZ tour 1973 & Australian Emus World tour 1974.

These are some of the sporting highlights of this small club and do not include many, many awards at regional and up to state level. Also, quite a number of very good riders have been unable to continue after leaving school due to career commitments. I believe the Guyra Pony Club can take a large amount of the credit for putting these members on the road to great achievement in the sporting world as well as being great citizens.


17 Aug 2014
my first pony club experience was when I was 14. I had joined as a saddle club member where I rode a horse if there was one spare and usually there was. It wasn't until I was 15 that I leased a gelding off a family friend that I started seriously competing in Sporting, Hacking and Cross Country. During my time at Pony Club I had a jumping accident which put a stop to advancing in show jumping due to a back injury but I still rode in other events. I have always been interested in horses since I was 5 years old and before I started riding at Pony Club I went with a friend and watched her ride and that was what encouraged me to finally join. The people that I met during my time at Milton Pony Club I will always think of because they helped me learn. The horses that were there were the most friendly horses people would love to meet. My 42 year old uncle who has severe Downs Syndrome came to pony club and helped me with my horse Leo, I saw his carers the next day and they said that he loved being at Pony Club and wanted to go back the next day. unfortunately I had to stop Pony Club when I was 16 due to work and by back but I will forever enjoy my memories at Milton Pony Club. I am now 18.

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