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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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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!!

Pony Club Camp
Pony Club Camp
Siobhan's story: When I was eight, I joined Ballarat Pony Club in 2003 with my younger sister. We didn't have our own horse, and so we would ride any pony that another family would lend us for rally days. Eventually our parents caved in and we started looking for a pony in 2004. 'Candy' was a Ballarat Pony Club pony through and through. She was bred in Ballarat and owned by two other BPC families before she came to us. Candy's special talents included handy mount classes and eating - your typical Aussie first pony! Finally we had a pony we could take to the annual Pony Club camp in the summer holidays of 2005. We did lots of riding during the day. Candy was well behaved in our two jumping lessons with eventer Amanda Ross, who rode for Australia at the Sydney Olympics. That pony club camp was the first time I had ever jumped PCAV Grade 4 fences with on my own pony. The photo shows Candy and I on cross-country, with Amanda watching. During the evenings, more fun was had with BBQs and red faces competitions. A whippet had puppies in someone's horse float one night, which provided some extra excitement; however, my strongest memory from my first ever Pony Club camp is of being woken up in the middle of the night because Candy had escaped from her yard! Despite being in a 'pony' yard she had wriggled out underneath the railings, and was found metres away pigging out on grass! Candy was also known for her ability to eat all the straw bedding in her stall if she was ever stabled. She is now 27 and belongs to another little girl in Ballarat. Candy has great teeth for her age and continues to enjoy eating everything and anything. From PCAV Grade 5 in 2005, I reached Grade 1 in 2012 on my third horse. I am no longer a member of Pony Club, but the camps - trips to the beach, riding lessons and games, or days of trail rides through the bush - remain some of my fondest memories from those Pony Club days.

Bob Hickson (right, front) with the Queensland Junior Showjumping Team
Bob Hickson (right, front) with the Queensland Junior Showjumping Team
Bob Hickson's story: When I was younger, my whole life revolved around horses - riding five miles to school in Boomi, then jackarooing on a large property in Queensland where I experienced mustering and chasing scrub cattle five and a half days a week. On Sundays it wasn't unusual for something to do we would get the horses that had a reputation and try them out.

Eventually, on my own place and with a family of four children approaching pony club age, I joined the Dirranbandi Pony Club. I thought I knew all about horses and riding. How mistaken I was! I elected to do instructors courses and a whole new world was opened to me. It quickly became obvious to me that it wasn't just a case of hopping on and kicking a horse in the ribs and away we go... The technicalities became very evident to me and I was very fortunate to attend a lot of schools under the insutrction of the 'Maestro', Franz Mairinger.

Franz, an Austrian, came from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. After arriving in Australia he went on to coach the Australian Olympic Equestrian Team to win fourth place in Stockholm and a gold medal and glory in Rome in 1960.

With my involvement with the Dirranbandi Pony Club, I was elected to the Queensland Chief Instructors Panel. For years I acted as manager of the Queensland Interstate Pony Club showjumping teams and also the state sporting and campdrafting teams.

The Pony Club, in my opinion, is the greatest institution in the country - not only in the world it opened up to me, which fosters so much friendship and friendly competition and the care and wellbeing of their much loved horses, but it is also great because the whole family can become involved.

Words cannot express the satisfaction one gets when one sees the confidence the children get when carefully encouraged, especially in jumping. As well as being an instructor, one also has to be a psychologist!! Instructing children and also instructing instructors to instruct can be so rewarding and it is something I shall always remember. I feel very honoured to be given life memberships of both the Dirranbandi Pony Club and the Queensland Pony Club Association.

My four children - Rowan, Greg, Geoff and Pamela - now adults - rate the Dirranbandi Pony Club days as among the most memorable time of their lives.

Note- Franz Mairinger held one of his first schools in Australia at Dirranbandi. Would have been something of a cultural shock! From Vienna to Dirran. He trained six Australian teams and was training the seventh when he died. He was responsible for putting Australian equestrians on the world stage.

Backyard with pony and duck
Backyard with pony and duck
Camilla's story: I joined Avondale pony club as an 11 year old 'non-riding member' in the early 70s. I didn't have a horse and would wear the uniform up to pony club rallies and hang about. Avondale was populated with some wonderful, knowledge people, who included me in activities and learning. I eventually did manage to own a pony (Buttons) who I rode to and from pony club, and all over the district. She eventually passed on to my younger sister and brother, and stayed with us for her whole life. In the 70s, we kept our horses behind suburban houses, and as their 'paddocks' were so small, the horses needed to be taken out and ridden every day. Pony club was one venue, along with various reserves and ovals in the Kuringgai area (apologies to the rangers, who we led on a merry chase...). Avondale attracted many great horsemen and women, who instructed, and who ran clinics in the school holidays. By 17 I was a pony club instructor myself, and competing in outside (open) competitions with success. I loved pony club, and was a true nerd - knowing the PC Manual inside out. My favourite memories are winning an improvement award in my second year at PC, and - quite a few years later, winning the John Charlton Horsemanship award, which tested all-round abilities. By the time my kids joined pony club, the culture had changed a little, and the influence of pony club had shifted. More outside competitions were available, and the best instructors and coaches operated outside the pony club system. By the time my daughter was the age I was when I started with my own pony at PC, she had sadly outgrown what it could provide for her.

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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.


13 Aug 2014
As a child in Darwin in the 1960's, we did not have Pony Club, but I rode in the "Randall Rding Troupe, which was a bunch of kids riding ponies & horsed owned by a wonderful aboriginal named Bobby Randall. We had training on a Friday night, with the police sergeant instructing us, putting us through many drills, we also rode to local schools and conducted "pony rides" for the kids, then rode home, sometimes quite long distances.
When we moved to Perth in 1968, I didn't have my own horse, but rode at a riding school in Swanview, who kindly hired their horses to riders for pony club, WA Horsemans Pony Club. We would ride from the riding school in a large group to pony club, ride all day, and ride back to the riding school. I will always be grateful to Nancy Dear, the owner of the riding school, for giving me this opportunity. My last 2 years of pony club were spent on my own horse, much to my delight.
When my son came along some years later, he attended pony club from the age of 6, and I also gained my instructor's certificate,and spent many more years enjoying all that pony club has to give.

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