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Take Advantage of Free Pony Club EMembership and Lunch and Learn Series

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The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., is excited to provide online education through a special free e-membership offer. Now through May 31, anyone interested in learning more about horses can use promo code PCIQ520 to sign up for a FREE Pony Club IQ E-Membership.

“In these challenging times, Pony Club would like to do something to help support the entire equine community,” said Karol Wilson, USPC Director of Member Services and Regional Administration. “We hope this free virtual membership will provide that crucial connection that people may be missing right now, along with educational benefits from Pony Club programming. We especially welcome newcomers to join us and discover what it’s like to be part of the Pony Club family.”

The IQ E-Membership opportunity offers access to a vast library of articles and knowledge written by scientists, veterinarians, and professionals in the equine industry. Information is organized by Pony Club certification levels from beginner through advanced to help members learn about horse management and progress at their own pace.

Online members will also enjoy access to the digital edition of the Pony Club Newsmagazine and the Pony Club blog, where we pile on the knowledge, as well as Shop Pony Club, the online store to find all of your Pony Club gear, and special offers from Pony Club sponsors. 

USBP will also be offering online education through a special Lunch ’N Learn series launched in late March. Activities and content currently publish every weekday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time on the USPC Facebook page. All are welcome to participate at Facebook.com/USPonyClubs

“Learning with Pony Club is one thing that can keep us connected during this time when we are apart,” said Connie Jehlik, USPC Instruction Services Director. “Our program has so many educational resources, and we wanted to make those easily available. We created the Lunch ’N Learn series to keep our members engaged through fun, interactive education and activities.” 

Online content created for the Lunch ’N Learn series includes videos, live Q&A sessions with experts, quizzes, scavenger hunts and more, plus tips, tools and resources for equestrians of all levels.

"While the global pandemic we are experiencing continues to affect all of our daily lives, Pony Club remains committed to delivering education to our members and the entire equine community,” said USPC Executive Director Teresa Woods. “Especially when social distancing may prevent some equestrians from riding or seeing their horses, these virtual horsemanship lessons are a way that we can help.”

40 Years of Feeling the Freedom

Red Rock Hounds celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Founded by Lynn Lloyd, the hunt has access to more than 1.5 million acres of public and private land in Nevada. Once a month, Murray and Lloyd pack up their trailers and lead a convoy to territories in California, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming for four-day hunting adventures.

“People travel from all over to experience what Red Rock creates,” says Angela Murray, Jt. Master and huntsman. “Red Rock Hunt is in a league of its own as far as creating destination experiences.”

If you’ve seen photos from any of Red Rock’s hunts, you get it. If you haven’t, it only takes one. But even if majestic images of following stunning hounds across the rugged, mountainous landscapes of the still untamed American West don’t crack your whip, the warm, come-as-you-are vibe just might.

redrock3Gretchen Pelham photo

"Overall, we have a very welcoming community in our home territory," Murray says. "I think Lynn started that vibe when she began the hunt 40 years ago. There's no pretense. She wants people to come and learn about the sport, and then fall in love with it."

It’s been that unique spirit that’s helped Red Rock Hounds become a national destination. Officially registered with the Masters of Foxhounds Association in 1980 and recognized in 1987, they’re celebrating 40 years of “feeling the freedom.” What’s more, they’re honoring Lloyd and her adventurous and welcoming spirit that built the club and keeps it growing.

redrock4Gretchen Pelham photo

With Her Own Hammer and Nails
Lloyd built the hunt in a region not well-known for foxhunting, let alone English saddles. She had driven across the United States from Pennsylvania with two horses and a dog after her business failed. She ran out of gas in Reno, which is how she found the valley where the club is now based.

“She didn't know anybody in Reno,” Murray says. “She worked for some farms in the area and did training while also searching around the outskirts of Reno for a place of her own. When she had the time and money, she found Red Rock Valley in Rancho Haven and bought her first 10-acre parcel.”

While she made money, she also made connections. She started her pack with 12 hounds from Los Altos Hounds out in California. Then, “with her own hammer and nails and the help of some of her friends,” says Murray, Lloyd built the club’s first kennel and barn on that 10-acre piece of land.

“They started as a club of three with twelve different hounds going twelve different directions,” Murray says. “They made their whips out of chair legs and bailing twine and had their breakfasts in a tiny pink trailer.” Stories like those, says Murray, are only the tip of the iceberg that make up the club’s rich history.

In 1997, Lloyd and Scott Tepper, her Joint Master at the time, bought the 650-acre Rock Creek Ranch, which was one of the original ranches in the valley. Murray joined the hunt fifteen years ago. She grew up hunting with Shakerag Hounds in Hull, Georgia. With her husband in the military, she moved around the country often and experienced a variety of clubs including Woodbrook Hunt Club in Lakewood, Washington, and Mission Valley Hunt in eastern Kansas, among others. She also started a pack of hounds in Fort Carson, Colorado, in 2003. She joined Red Rock when she moved to the area in 2005.

Out West, the Future is Promising
Of all the lands she’s hunted, Murray says the Red Rock experience was more unique than anything she'd seen anywhere else. "We are very blessed with more country than we can even get to," she says. "We try to get to all of it at least every other season. But I think the future is very promising for hunting out west in general, and particularly for Red Rock as a club."

redrock2Gretchen Pelham photo

With its welcoming nature, the club’s base of younger professional members and juniors is growing quickly. Most of the juniors who go away to college return later on. Some find a way to stay on throughout. Red Rock’s membership grew by 20% over the past year, and they are soon opening up new country, including 90 sections in Montana.

They also engage the public with their hounds throughout the year and have championed the sport in the region for three decades, including an appearance at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California.

“There are so many people within the industry nationwide who want to honor Lynn,” Murray says. “We want to do the best job we can to honor her here at our own hunt and celebrate forty years of feeling the freedom with her."

redrock3Gretchen Pelham photo

Coping with Coronavirus

As the world navigates through uncertain times, hunt clubs across the country are dealing with the logistical and financial repercussions from the pandemic.

Some hunts had just wrapped up their seasons when crowd restrictions were first announced, but many were forced to end a few weeks early. State-mandated social distancing rules prevented dozens of clubs from continuing with their regularly scheduled spring activities. Hound shows and performance trials were unable to run, but perhaps most detrimental to the clubs were the cancellations of their fundraising events such as hunt balls, point-to-points, and spring horse shows.

Managing the daily needs of the hounds, while also practicing social distancing, created an added burden for many clubs, especially those that rely on honorary staff and volunteers. But in true foxhunting spirit, members are banding together to come up with creative solutions and stay positive.

Working Together

Crofton Held Heidi OConnor Photo 1Long-time Bedford County Hunt member Crofton Held helping walk hounds. Heidi O’Connor photo.

Many clubs have worked out a system to keep things running as smoothly as possible back at their kennels.

“We have honorary staff and volunteer members who come six days a week to walk hounds – two to three people are scheduled at a time. Everyone picks a day, including long-time member Crofton Held, who was 80 years young this spring,” said Med Long, MFH, of Bedford County Hunt in Virginia. “Nobody is in the office or kennel except the huntsman, so social distancing is easy…and the exercise is therapeutic!”

“If someone wants to come walk, they are welcome, but they must wear a mask and practice social distancing. Only a few have come,” added Sandy Dixon, MFH and huntsman for the Texas-based Brazos Valley Hounds.

Some hunts are preferring to keep things simple and lower the risk of contact with fewer people involved. “No one is coming and going from the kennels anymore,” says Jody Michel, whose husband, Tim, is the huntsman at Bull Run Hunt in Virginia. “It’s just Tim and myself and the kids walking out every day and doing the horse and hound work.”

Fundraising Fiasco

Jody Michel and daughter Abby 1Jody Michel, of Bull Run Hunt, and her daughter Abby exercising hounds. Photo courtesy of Jody Michel.

For many hunts, the cancellations of all of their upcoming fundraising events were devastating. Point-to-points, hunter paces, spring and summer horse shows, hunt balls, and puppy auctions are more than just social events—they bring in much-needed revenue to help sustain hunt clubs. Losing those was a huge blow.

“I think it will hurt a lot of clubs,” says Michel. “Many of the big clubs lost huge amounts of money on their point-to-points not running. It’s really unfortunate. We also missed out on our March Madness, a week-long event put on by Bull Run Hunt. That was a lot of lost revenue.”

The cancellations also affected trainers and hunt barns, as well as the clubs’ communities. “March Madness was cancelled, which was a big impact on the local business,” says Heather Heider, who runs a foxhunting barn in northern Virginia. “I had 16 friends and clients planning to go with their horses. The cancellation impacted not only the hunt’s revenue stream, but the local bed-and-breakfasts and the stabling businesses, which was thousands of dollars. And we were only one group coming in! But they were smart to have cancelled and to be sensitive to the needs of our community.”

Spring horse shows, another source of revenue for clubs, were also called off. Keswick Hunt cancelled their 117th Keswick Horse Show scheduled for mid-May. The popular event was a fundraiser for the club, but also donated thousands of dollars to local charities.

Looking Ahead

Many clubs are using online resources and social media to come up with creative solutions for fundraisers. Some clubs, such as Oak Ridge Hunt Club and Palm Beach Hounds, hosted online auctions to help raise funds. Goshen Hounds is doing their puppy naming event on Zoom.

When possible, clubs (such as Bull Run) have rescheduled their hunt balls for later in the year. Others, like Kimberton Hunt which was gearing up to host their 75th annual horse show, have found new dates for their shows.

For many hunts, however, now that their seasons are over, the daily activities at the kennels remain largely unchanged, with the hounds transitioning to their typical spring schedule. “Life at the kennels goes on,” says Andy Bozdan, huntsman for Carmargo Hunt in Ohio. “Hounds need feeding, cleaning out, and walking out every day. Hounds and new entry need training. Now our whole emphasis is on the start of the coming season and hoping we can start on time. If we can’t, then everything will have to move back a month.”

While hunt clubs work to overcome the loss of revenue from the cancelled events, many of the staff and members are doing their best to remain optimistic for the future. “Tim ended his first year as huntsman on a good note, even if it was abrupt,” says Michel. And like most hunt members across the country, “He’s just counting down the days until hound exercise starts in late summer, hopefully.”

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