Now that I have recovered from a double Pony Club hangover it’s time to recap and review what occurred at the United States Pony Club Championships East and Central.
I grew up in Pony Club and now I’m an adult member, or horsemaster, Jt. DC of a local club, and a Chief Horse Management Judge. I have seen both sides of Pony Club competition as a participant and as a judge; both are not an easy job. Some may think the life of a judge is glamorous, but not always if you’re a horse management judge.
Typically, at champs, we start at 6 a.m. with the members, making sure the horses are being cared for, the teams have all their required equipment, members have a turnout inspections and safety checks before they ride. When not working with the members the CHMJ is scoring the HM sheets, answering inquiries, prepping for the next day, and when barns close at 6 p.m. our night is not over. It’s then that we walk in the opening ceremonies, score more paperwork, label more paperwork, attend the annual shrimp boil by the Deep South Region, return to oversee night checks, and perhaps even get some sleep.
“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” — Herodotus, 503 B.C. That may be the motto for the U.S. Postal Service, but it can be said of horse management judges as well. I’ve had a rally I worked while it was literally flooding around us!
USPC Champs East at the Tryon International Equestian Center can be summed up by the following: #fryinintryon, #constructionzone, #xcjumpsindressage, #gamesponiesvsskydivers, #notready, #caroselorponyride, #hmofficetakesovermensroom, and #wow!
To say the least Tryon was memorable. Not just because my ride down was an adventure of its own with a PC Center Administrator, her three teenage members, three horses, and two blown tires that made the 6.5-hour drive into an over 12-hour drive. Greenacres Pony Club Riding Center Jessy, her band of merry members, Keara, Syndey, and Analise, and myself were only saved by a lovely gentleman who tracked us down and brought us a tire off his own trailer so we could make it to Tryon. All he asked for in turn was that we like his Facebook page — he has goats that he uses to clear land: Wells Farm Goats.
After the adventure of making it to Tryon, the competition began at this lovely new venue, but not without some bumps in the road. The biggest hurdle was the arena switcheroos and cross country modification.
The original plan was to have each discipline — Dressage, Show Jumping, Games, Eventing, and Tetrathlon — ride in the main arena. But the covered arena was still being used for jump creation and storage, so dressage was moved into the main arena.
The second big bump was cross country. The main track was not ready and cross country was set up in the the field paddocks (originally going to be used as polocrosse fields) and neighboring arenas, surrounding the dressage arenas that were used for eventing. So express eventing anyone? It might not of been the most ideal galloping track but it made for great viewing and easy access from the barns. From what I gathered from working HM in eventing the course was condensed, twisty, but still neat to be riding in a new facility with great footing.
With all that set it was time to let the games begin. When Tryon wants to put on a show it puts on a show. Every night there was entertainment: vaulting demonstrations, Dom and Jimmie Schramm’s Battle of the Barns Lip Sync contest, Double Dan Horsemanship Performance and National Velvet showing on the jumbotron, and finally Saturday Night Lights with SKYDIVERS!, bouncy horse races and Senior Games Competition. It’s a bit of Disney World for equestrians; we were lucky to have the opportunity to have USPC Champs at Tryon. After my experience there I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for TIEC!
And now for something completely different: USPC Central Championships in the exciting corn filled state of Iowa. Central champs occurred in two phases: Phase 1 (Eventing), was held in conjunction with the Catalpa Corner Horse Trials, and Phase 2 (Games, Dressage, Show Jumping, Tetrathlon, and Quiz) were held at the Iowa Equestrian Center in Cedar Rapids, IA.
While I did not work horse management for eventing champs we did check in with them when I arrived. The event was small, with nine riders and three stable managers. It was running smooth and finishing up when we arrived. We also noted that like Richland the cross country at Catalpa runs through the corn fields thus the nickname for Eventing was “The Children of the Corn.”
Next was Games champs, but not before we waited for the barrel racers to move out and for all the stalls to be stripped before the Games kids invaded. Bright and early 40 games kids and Horse management judges began the day filled with first set up and safety checks, turnout inspections, required equipment checks, safety checks, daily checks, turn backs, and of course Games. Everything in one day meant it was a long hard day but at least we weren’t #fryinintryon.
To add to the chaos of the day Dressage, Show Jumping and Tetrathlon moved in at noon while Games was still going on. Luckily there was Chief Horse Management Judge reinforcements plus the countless volunteers/parents that helped get everything running. Of course there were bumps in the road: warm up changes, ride time changes, pony changes, but we work through it, care for our mounts, and kick on. It’s what we do in Pony Club — we work together as a team, put our mounts first, and come together as a family to create fun and rewarding experiences for our members to grow and develop into great horseman and horsewomen.
Next year is Festival, the triennial National Championships and educational clinics where I hope to compete and my son ride in D camp. Until then, all roads head to Kentucky in 2017!
Photo credits: Facebook pages of Tryon International Equestrian Center, United States Pony Club, Yvette Seger, A.H.