Pony Club and Life Lessons

Hello!

This week marks the start of finals for me, so kind thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated! I considered writing more about managing time and finding ways to ride, but I think this week’s focus will be on something from my past, for some of you may have children who are involved in this organization, or may have been part of it yourself. As you can see from my title, I am speaking of Pony Club.

hilary tandy at pony club

Now, my parents (read: my mother) encouraged my brother and me to be involved in this national organization, with the intention that we would learn much more about the care, cost, and upkeep of our horses than if we had simply played around on trails as we were inclined to do. In the beginning, Pony Club was a symbol of horsemanship, equine education, and a supportive environment for young and old alike. Its rating system allowed for separation by skill and wisdom concerning areas such as how to put a bridle together, or what strains of hay were best for your horse, while also encouraging relationships between the talented and the less-talented (or simply younger), by forming a team with different level members. All in all, a wonderful cause and a flawless method for encouraging the love of equine sports.

However, my time in Pony Club was a disaster. My brother, me, and my two close friends were ostracized and bullied by- not the members- but their parents. There was cheating, lying, stealing, and a myriad of other insulting behaviors directed our way, and my brother and I were held back at the lowest rating for more than two years, which is nearly unheard of. The dark days of Pony Club took not only a bridle from my tack box, but also darkened my love for showing and competing, since the rallies that were held every year became a miserable struggle in trying to not attract the attention of our DC. I hated Pony Club, and I believe  our time in the organization was indirectly responsible for my brother losing his interest in riding. Shortly after we left he hung up his riding clothes and never put them on again.

At my very last rally, when I was around 11 years old, our DC, the one who had tormented me throughout my years in Pony Club, was caught putting labels on items in her son’s team. All tack, brushes, and first aid equipment needed to be labelled before the rally began, and parents were strictly forbidden from helping their children with anything while the rally was in progress. So she lost her position, and we left the organization. My sweet mother, in an attempt to make up for the abuse all of us kids had experienced at the hands of those few nasty individuals, tried to make her own Pony Club, which eventually fizzled out. The taste left in our mouths was too bitter to be soothed over so easily.

However, this situation I describe was EXTREMELY localized. This not specific to Pony Club as an organization, and I urge all of you to give it chance, because it truly should have been a wonderful experience. It only took a few individuals with anger in their hearts to ruin what could have been a wonderful experience for three young girls and a boy who were absolutely crazy about horses. Instead, those few people made Pony Club a black stain on our hearts and stifled our passion for competing. I have friends who went through Pony Club for many years and absolutely loved it. I envied them slightly, wishing I could have had that experience, when the other day I was putting a bridle together back home and wondered, Where did I learn to do this? Much to my surprise, the answer was “in Pony Club.” Pony Club taught me how to read confirmation, how to wrap a horse’s legs, how to check a horse’s temperature, the exact measurement where a pony ends and a horse begins, what tell-tale signs point to colic, what plants are poisonous to horses, and yes, what kind of hay is best to feed them based on their workload. Even while I struggled through the rallies, fought the injustices that were thrown my way, and tried to fend off animosity from other members and their parents, I learned. And that knowledge that I took away from Pony Club not only allowed me to be a better horsewoman, but it also taught me how to deal with conflict.

Sometimes, people are not going to like you. There may be a  reason for it, there may not. But either way, you can always learn something from the situation. And if all else fails, take a trip to the nearest stable and bury your face in a friend’s scratchy mane, because those animals will patiently listen and be there for you when you feel like the world is against you. What got me through Pony Club was my brother’s presence, the support from my few friends, and especially that little brown pony named Peanut, who suffered through it with me without complaint, and soaked up my tears into his fuzzy coat. And now, looking back, I have gained so much. So thank you, Pony Club, for your mission- it works even when the leaders fail. And thank you to those who tried to stand in my way- you merely made me stronger (although I would be lying if I didn’t note how satisfying it was to hear our DC had been kicked out!) and thank you mostly to Peanut, sweet old Peanut, who carried me through it all.