The motto of the United States Pony Club is “sportsmanship, stewardship, leadership through horsemanship.” Expanding on that, their mission states that: “The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. is an educational organization which builds the foundations of teamwork and sportsmanship through riding, mounted sports, care of horses and ponies, while developing and enhancing leadership, confidence, responsibility, and a sense of community in its youth and adult members.” Since its beginning in 1954, it has lived up to that standard and then some.
Through the teaching of horse care and riding skills, participants also learn sportsmanship and leadership skills as well as gain confidence and learn to work as a team not only with their horses, but also with other members of their group.
Pony Club has been fundamental in creating Olympic gold medalists like Bruce Davidson, David O’Connor and Melanie Smith-Taylor as well as some of the top professional trainers in the U.S. However, more than that, as Ben Duke, on the Pony Club Board of Governors and a Pony Club alumnus from 1974, proudly states, Pony Club participants go on to be veterinarians, lawyers, schoolteachers and presidents of Fortune 500 companies. It is a steppingstone to much greater success throughout their lives.
This particular story focuses on two Pony Club members, Julia Magsam, a dressage rider from Sadieville, Kentucky and Emily Harris, a Western trail rider from Lynchburg, Virginia. They come from very different backgrounds but have one major thing in common – horses. It chronicles their journey to, and at, the 2021 Championships at the USPC Festival held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. You get to know these ladies and how Pony Club has done much more than teach them horse skills. It has positively shaped their lives, built their confidence, given them a sense of belonging and paved the way for their future successes.
The week-long Festival is held every three years, and more than 3,000 Pony Club members, volunteers, and families participate. It is divided up into two parts: Championships and Education. The National Championships are held the first part of the week, followed by mounted and unmounted clinics and workshops taught by Pony Club graduates, Olympians, and equine industry professionals.
Spend time with Julia, Emily and their families as they arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park, get their stalls and horses ready, go through the tense time of inspections and then finally arrive at the Championship competition day. Of course, everyone there wants to win, but the more important theme is how well the horses are cared for.
Regardless of the outcome, as Emily states in part of the Pony Club pledge, “I stand for the best in sportsmanship as well as horsemanship. I shall compete for the enjoyment of the game well played and take winning and losing in stride.” She strongly emphasizes the importance of that sportsmanship portion. Throughout the event, both young riders show grace, maturity and composure much beyond their years. These are traits that their horses, and Pony Club, have no doubt helped them develop.
So come with us to Lexington, get to know Julia and Emily and see what Pony Club is all about.
This article and Horse Week feature video are brought to you by United States Pony Club.
Horse Week: October 3 – 9
Learn more about two young United States Pony Club members as they learn sportsmanship, stewardship and leadership through horsemanship in Pony Club’s feature video, Where It All Begins premiering Wednesday, October 6 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
WATCH the trailer for Where It All Begins below.