Woodbrook Hunt Club (WA) and Briarwood Pony Club member Kathryn Craig, 20, recently traveled to Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio to compete in the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Nationals. She earned the overall Silver Medal and the High Point Practicum Award.

She describes the competition, how she prepared, and how her Pony Club and hunting background was an asset.

Can you explain how the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge works? What are you judged on?

Answer: The Horsemanship Quiz Challenge (HQC) is an annual knowledge-based competition put on by the USHJA. Members of the USHJA under the age of 21 qualify by taking two online placement tests. The first test requires a score of 80% or greater to qualify for the second test which requires a 90% or higher to qualify for Nationals. The top 24 scores from the second test get invited to nationals. This competition is sponsored by Piper Klemm, owner of The Plaid Horse Magazine, and hosted by the Lake Erie College of Equine Studies.

It was an amazing learning opportunity. During the times that we weren’t testing, we attended some great seminars on bits, hunter judging, travel safety, equine body condition and nutrition, and some lectures on case studies that happened to horses at the College. Lake Erie College was a wonderful facility that provided us with classrooms and horses to work with. The Horsemanship Quiz Challenge was run in conjunction with the USHJA’s Emerging Athletes Program, where 16 riders from across the country come to clinic with Olympian Peter Wylde and compete in that Sunday’s Nations Cup Competition. In our spare time, we also had the privilege of auditing Peter’s clinics.

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Craig concentrating during the written portion of the Challenge. Photo by AJS Photography.

The tests are composed of many aspects of horsemanship, from bandaging, clipping, nutrition, pasture management, anatomy, and horse handling to current events in the sport (these are just a few of the many topics). Most of my preparation was through studying for Pony Club certifications, because a lot of the material is the same. The USHJA Horsemanship Study Guide heavily references the Pony Club manual, so I used that as my primary study source.

At Nationals, there were three phases to the competition. On the first day, we had the written test and the identification room. The written test consisted of multiple choice and short answer questions. After the written test, there is an identification test that checks your ability to identify common things seen around the barn. Scores from the two sections were then added up to determine the order in which we took the practicum the next day. In the practicum we were individually tested on the skills necessary for a barn manager or head groom. This was a hands-on experience where we were given a horse and a scenario that required demonstrating our skills and abilities in the barn when it comes to things that are directly related to horse handling, grooming, and care.

What other areas did you do well in, to contribute to the overall Silver Medal?

Answer: My practicum was definitely my strongest section. I really enjoyed this part of the test. It was a conversational 20 minutes or so to explain to the judges how I would handle the situations they gave me. Many years of hands-on experience as a groom supported me through this section of the test. My other big strengths came from being familiar with common conformation faults and different types of tack. These strengths I credit to learning these topics for Pony Club certifications and competitions on horse knowledge.

How would you describe Pony Club's importance to your riding and all-around horsemanship?

Answer: I have been in Pony Club for almost six years. It has provided me with countless opportunities to develop as a horseman. I have attained my HB certification and qualified for national championship competition for three consecutive years. Attending championships enabled me to travel to Virginia and Kentucky from my home in Washington. I teach horse management lessons to local clubs regularly, teaching them about horse care and a vast array of topics required by Pony Club to pass their certification tests. I owe a great deal of my knowledge and who I am today to Pony Club. The work put into attaining these knowledge and riding achievements have molded me as a successful horseperson. I recognize there is always more to learn and this lifetime is not long enough to learn it all.

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Craig following a joint meet in Massachusetts with Myopia Hunt at Norfolk Hunt. Hannah McGrath photo.

Tell us about your foxhunting experience.

Answer: I went on my first hunt when I was 14 and was instantly hooked; I love the history of the sport and watching the hounds work. I started hunting seriously about a year and a half ago as a member of the Woodbrook Hunt Club in Lakewood, Washington, when I became a working student for Jennifer Hansen, our huntsman, and Tami Masters, MFH, at their hunter/jumper training barn, Starfire Farms. Now I go out on regular hound walks, hound exercise, training hunts, and formal hunts. I go on at least one of these activities per week, depending on how busy I am with my college work.

My favorite thing about hunting is going out with friends on a beautiful day, being able to enjoy horses, hounds, and good friends. I have so many friends, Pony Club and not, that I feel lucky to see every weekend on hunts. We are blessed to be able to ride on the Joint Base Lewis-McCord with over 80,000 acres of training areas that we are permitted to use. It is a combination of these things that make hunting truly special. I feel so honored to be able to carry on this traditional sport.

Foxhunting absolutely supports me as a rider and in Pony Club. It taught me that perfection isn’t everything. A “good” position is worthless if you can’t be effective, especially out in the open. The flip side of that, which Pony Club teaches, is that a balanced position enables a rider to be more effective. The two complement each other well. With this experience, I participated in the 2015 Pony Club International Foxhunting Exchange where four Pony Clubbers from England and four from Ireland came over to the USA and we all foxhunted and toured around Kentucky for 10 days. It was such an amazing experience and I made friends to last a lifetime.

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