USPC now recognizes Pony Club member with certificates, pins
When Pony Club was founded in the 1920s in Great Britain, its two primary goals were to educate children to become competent horsemen and teach them to confidently ride in the sport of foxhunting. The original Pony Club was founded by foxhunting enthusiasts who recognized the need for skilled instruction for all children interested in horsemanship and riding. Pony Club quickly became a foundation that assisted many families in educating young riders without the high price of expensive lessons, or worse, the breaking of parents’ patience as they tried to educate their own children!
The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. has recently implemented a Foxhunting Program to recognize members who participate in both the mounted and unmounted workings of the sport of foxhunting. Along with the incorporation of this new program, there is located on the USPC website the new USPC Foxhunting Certification Guidelines and paperwork (www.foxhunting.ponyclub.org). In addition, one can also find stories of hunting, photographs depicting the sport throughout the country, and other opportunities as they arise.
As the Chair of the USPC Foxhunting Committee, I’d love to share what this sport involves along with how I became involved nearly fifty years ago. One of the most memorable and exciting times of my childhood came when my Regional Supervisor, Sam Paschal, invited my Pony Club to undertake the exhilarating sport of foxhunting at the Woodbrook Hunt Club in Washington State. Being without wheeled transportation, my Regional Supervisor hauled my horse with a 1954 Ford and a home-made wooden trailer in tow.
On Day One of my first foxhunting experience, I participated in a competition known as a Field Trial. These included short classes held in a field adjoining the property where Woodbrook Hunt Club had established its clubhouse and kennels. At that time, the Field Trials consisted of a series of games and natural-obstacle jumping course classes designed to test the different skills used while riding astride the hunt. That day, I participated in a pairs jumping class, Mongolian relay race (where one horse walks, one trots, and one canters/gallops with a baton hand-off), and a Point-to-Point race where each competitor had to locate the Master of Foxhounds (MFH) by the sound of her horn, retrieve a coin from her at her station in the forest, and cross the finish line with the coin in hand.
The second day of that unforgettable weekend was “The Hunt.” Oh how my horse was flawlessly turned out with a braided mane, banged tail, and spotless equipment. I had the time of my life galloping across the prairie and following the hounds on a line into the green forestland that Washington State is notorious for. It was on this day in the 1960s that I attended my first foxhunt; nearly fifty years later, I am still hunting with the Woodbrook Hunt Club, teaching foxhunting, and as passionate about the sport as I was on my first day riding to the hounds.
As USPC members experience the joys of foxhunting, the Foxhunting Certification Program has recently been created in two parts to reward their effort and skill. This program is unique in that no minimum rating level is required for the achievement of the certification, and at no point is a competition involved.
The first section of this certification consists of unmounted learning about the hounds, the hunt, and the educational (knowledge) approach of the sport. Upon completion of the first section, the USPC member will earn a certificate and a fox-head pin to wear alongside the Pony Club pin on a shirt’s lapel. The second section is offered for independent riders who are tested during an actual hunt under the supervision of a staff member. The riding portion of this testing will earn the member a USPC Foxhunting pin; the pin will resemble the highly valued discipline pin earned at USPC Championships—the USPC logo on top and the word “Foxhunting” in black and white attached below it.
It is through this program that I hope to bridge the gap between The United States Pony Clubs and Hunt Clubs across the nation. There are currently USPC members who have earned recognition from their hunt clubs and been awarded their “colors.” These colors are worn on their formal jackets and worn with pride at USPC rallies and activities. How wonderful it will be to see our new Foxhunting discipline pins representing USPC out on the hunt field!
Linda M. Hagerman chairs the USPC Foxhunting Committee.