Pony Clubbers from across the eastern United States embarked on the trip of a lifetime last week. Four talented riders were selected to take part in the 2023 Pony Club Inter-Pacific Exchange (IPE), which is hosted in New Zealand this year.
IPE includes two weeks of training, competing and experiencing the host nation’s local horse culture. Riders will participate in the Kangaroo Cup, a combined test, in Cromwell on Jan. 20, and a Nations Cup show jumping competition in Gore on Jan. 24th. All will be partnered with unfamiliar catch rides.
USPC team members include Keely Bechtol (‘B SJ’), Nora Goldfarb (‘A EV’) Sierra Shurtz (‘B’), and Emily Thomas (‘HA’). They’re joined by team manager Alex Ambelang, a graduate HA/B Pony Clubber who spent nearly a decade grooming at the top levels of eventing, and team coach Jennifer Merrick-Brooks, graduate ‘A’ Pony Clubber who teaches, trains and organizes events in Michigan.
Participants are drawn from countries who border the Pacific Rim: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. The Inter-Pacific Exchange is open to Pony Club members who have attained their “B” rating and are between 17 and 25 years of age. To be selected, the riders must submit a video showing their skill on the flat and over fences. They must also have competed up to the Preliminary level of eventing or 1.10 meter show jumping.
Before departure, the U.S. team met in Georgia for a few days of training at Susan Thomas’ Full Circle Farm where the competitors switch-rode a variety of different horses, loaned generously by Susan and many of her clients. This time was not only good practice, but also an opportunity for team bonding. The riders stayed together at Sierra Shurtz farm, reviewed riding videos of one another and took on an escape room together.
“It was so wonderful to be able to ride at Susan’s not only to get on some great horses, but also to see each other ride and get to know one another. It’s a really neat group — we’re all quite similar and get along super well. I feel lucky to have this opportunity, and even more so that I like my team so much,” said Nora.
The team touched down in New Zealand after 40+ hours of travel and have been making the most of every minute of their trip. Here’s their latest recap:
“Our last two days have been action packed! Yesterday, we attended the South Island SJ Championships and enjoyed jump crewing, helping pin the classes and attending the prize giving. We “adopted” Greymouth Pony Club as our own and were thrilled when they finished 8th out of 28!!
“Later that evening we attended a barbecue with the other teams at NZ alternate Bella Wyllie’s house, where the Kiwis tried to teach us one of their poplar backyard games called “Cub.” I’m convinced they were making up the rules as they went, since every time we started to get the hang of it they found a way to penalize us 🤣
“Today, we spent the morning at a local PC mounted games clinic where Sierra, Nora, and Keely got to dust off the cobwebs and show us some of their skills from their competitive gaming days, and Emily even vaulted. They said she’s a natural!
“Later, the teams went to Jess Land’s farm and rode some of her lovely horses. It was another great opportunity to ride together as a team in front of coach Jenn, discuss strategy, and watch the other teams ride as well!
”We wrapped up the day with a trip up to Hanmer Springs and spent the afternoon in the hot pools and water park (and the drive up was gorgeous)!”
Best of luck to USPC as they continue their trip and prepare for the Nations Cup. To follow their journey, give their Facebook Page a like. These four put forth a tremendous effort fundraising and if you’d like to support them, you can donate at this link.
Go Pony Club. Go Eventing.