With more outdoor sporting activity sparking back into life over the coming days, the countdown is also on for the return of the popular Friday evenings for the members of the Clare Branch of the Irish Pony Club.
The 50 strong club, which is based at the showground in Ennis, caters for young people ranging from eight years old right up to 23 years old, and provides a number of different opportunities within the equine field.
The Irish Pony Club has branches right across the country, with one of its former members in Tipperary making all the headlines recently as the all conquering Rachael Blackmore smashed the glass ceiling for female jockeys.
DC of the Clare Branch Nicki Harvey outlined that the focus in the club is on developing the relationship between the young person and their pony in order to maximise the experience.
“The club was founded just over 40 years ago and is really a child centred club focused on learning through fun. Our aim is to teach the children a range of different types of equestrianism, different types of horse riding, stable management and how to ride their own ponies, and look after them. It also prepares them for a life in the equine business if that is the path they want to go down” she explained.
Being a member of the Clare Pony Club allows young people to experience competitions such as showjumping, eventing, dressage, pony games and other events. Nicki said the club is lucky that so many members continue as coaches when they graduate from the age bracket.
“Most of the instructors are ex pony club members themselves and have experience in producing horses, preparing them for sales, breaking horses and getting them riding right up to international level. They are able to teach our members how to ride their own ponies and how to grow the bond between the jockey and pony so that they get the most out of their relationship. The older members of the club then really are role models for the younger children. We have three classes on a Friday evening for the various age brackets, and our members go through a training scale from the very basics through to various qualifications which are internationally recognised” she outlined.
The potential for professional progression has seen former members carve out successful careers in areas such as international grooms, vets, stud managers, farriers and equine physios.
Outside of the sporting and professional opportunities that the club offers, Nicki feels it is the community atmosphere it creates which is central to its ethos.
“We ask the children and their parents about what they think the club offers, and they all say it is the sense of family in the club. They make life long friends and have a really strong support structure in their lives because of that. We see families coming in that may not know much about horses, and the guidance they get from the other members is brilliant to see. At the heart of it really, is getting that partnership between the young person and their pony right. They can enter loads of competitions but it is that understanding of their own pony which is the real benefit, so they can make the most of that partnership” she explained.
Nicki also outlined that the rallies are due back on April 30 and will be held outside.
“We got used to that element of social distancing last year and we had a very enjoyable summer even with that cloud of Covid-19 hanging over us. We will be maintaining those high standards again this year, and will hopefully have another great summer ahead of us” she concluded.
Anyone who wants to find out more information about the club can search for the Clare Branch of the Irish Pony Club on Facebook.