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what to expect from lessons/ pony club- advice please

7 replies

hennybeans · 16/05/2014 14:19

DD who is 5, loves horses. We live rurally and they are everywhere. She would love to take riding lessons and there are many places near us that offer them but I am on the fence about letting her start. I didn't grow up in the UK so don't really know what pony club is and how much it involves. Do you take lessons first before joining pony club? Do you need to (eventually) own a pony? Is this a hobby that can take over your life- meaning a need to travel to events and lots and lots of practice? Do you need to be reasonably well off financially for horse riding/ pony club? I'm a SAHM so I do have time to take DD but also have 2 DS so need to consider them and their activities. Any replies to give me an idea of what I should expect from this hobby/ sport would be gratefully received.

OP posts:
backinthebox · 16/05/2014 15:07

I typed a detailed reply but DS deleted it! You can join either as a pony owner or a non-owner. As an owner your DD would go to rallies. My DD is 6, has been a member since 4 and is generally in the same group for each rally, so has a little group of friends. Rallies are basically fun lessons, the one we did this week was mounted games for the first half, then little jumps for the second half.

We have 2 ponies, and I have a 10 year old girl who rides out for me. She started riding as a Pony Club Centre member, at a riding school that is affiliated to the Pony Club and aims at the same badges and achievement awards, but using riding school ponies. She paid the PC membership fee and got subsidised lessons and 'own a pony' days at the riding school. She has become such an accomplished little rider that this year she is attending rallies for those who own their own ponies, but on a borrowed pony (either one of mine or a friend's.) So you don't have to own a pony, or even be that well off, to join Pony Club (but it helps! We are certainly at the poorer end of the scale at our PC, and I'm an airline pilot married to a company director!)

If you DD has not even started riding yet, I would suggest you sign her up for a riding school which is affiliated to the PC. There is loads of info and a list of places on the website here.

I have found that, yes, it is a time consuming hobby. But so are most kids hobbies - you could be spending hours taking her to swimming and watching her power up and down the pool face down in the water for hours on end! Horses for courses, I suppose. Wink

SlowlorisIncognito · 16/05/2014 20:28

First of all, it would be best to find a riding school for your daughter to take lessons at. One affliated to the pony club is good, or one affliated to the BHS (british horse society) www.bhs.org.uk/enjoy-riding/find-a-place-to-ride should guarentee a reasonable level of tuition and animal welfare. Pony club is traditionally for children with their own ponies, or one on loan/as a share, but more centres now are offering membership for those without horses. However, at this stage, I wouldn't worry about pony club too much.

5 is fairly young to start riding, and some riding schools now will not offer lessons until 8. Unless the riding school recommends differently, I would start her off with just 1/2 an hour at a time, to allow her muscles to get used to riding. Riding uses a lot of muscles in ways we don't otherwise use them, so expect her to ache the next day. Riding also requires concentration and can be fairly intensive exercise, so longer than 1/2 an hour can be a bit much for younger children to start with.

To start off, your DD will very likely be on the lead rein or lunge, which means someone else is controlling the pony, and she learns how to stay on, slowly developing more independence. Lessons for young children should be fun though- expect lots of games to be played.

WRT to costs, it doesn't have to be expensive or all consuming unless you let it. You can start off with one lesson a week, which you should be able to hire equiptment for, and take it from there. As she gets older, and wants her own equiptment (e.g. hat, boots, jodpuhrs) things can get a bit more expensive. I wouldn't worry about competitions yet, except maybe riding school gymkanas/shows, which will be very cheap/free. As she gets older, you may be able to drop her off at the yard, so she can learn about stable management (looking after the horses) and help out for the day.

However, buying a pony is a massive commitment in terms of both time and finances, and you do need to be knowledgable and confident to deal with them. I wouldn't worry about this until you are sure you enjoy it and are sure this is something you as a family want to commit to.

I hope you find somewhere for your daughter to have lessons, and she really enjoys it :)

hennybeans · 16/05/2014 20:36

Thanks for the reply backinthebox. The riding centre nearest us does activity days over the summer so I might sign DD up for a few of those to see how she does, then maybe start lessons in Sept.

I'm only hesitant to let DD start an activity that might eventually require more than we can provide, both in time and financially. I can't really see us owning a pony (unless DD falls head over heels in love with riding and DH has a temporary lapse of judgement).

DD does ballet at the moment which is only 1 hour a week and she loves it, but in the long run I think it is not such a healthy activity once they hit puberty (ie pressure to stay very thin, etc). Riding seems like a really good physical activity that DD can continue to do even as an adult if she chooses, whereas since I am 5'10", it seems DD will probably not be great ballerina material past puberty.

How many hrs a week/ month does your DD spend riding/ doing pony club, if you don't mind me asking?

OP posts:
hennybeans · 16/05/2014 20:48

SlowlorisIncognito-thanks, that was very informative! I was a bit worried I would sign DD up for lessons and next thing I know, she would be asking for a pony for Christmas IYKWIM! It's reassuring to know that we can start slowly. I can definitely manage 1 lesson a week, especially as there's a riding centre very close to us.

OP posts:
Pixel · 16/05/2014 22:16

Well you do what you can manage. Even if your dd decides she wants a pony it doesn't mean you have to buy her one!
Most of us grew up desperately hoping to find a pony in the garden on Christmas morning or badgering our parents with helpful suggestions for how to aquire one Wink but in reality we still got a lot of pleasure out of the occasional lesson, pony treks on holiday etc.
I think you are getting ahead of yourself worrying about how time-consuming riding will be for your dd before she's even started as you don't know what will happen in the future. For a start not everyone who rides is part of the 'show scene' except maybe the odd local one for fun, or aspires to be an olympic showjumper, some people just enjoy being around ponies and ride for pleasure. There is no law says you have to be in the pony club. Also, as you live in a rural and 'horsey' area you will probably find opportunities come your daughter's way as she gets older and gets to know other people at the riding school etc. For instance she may one day have school friends who have ponies who will invite her to ride or she may be able to get a part-loan of one later on.
Honestly, if your dd would like to have lessons then I'd let her and just take it as it comes.

hennybeans · 17/05/2014 13:17

Thanks Pixel. I was just wondering if there would be pressure down the line to get heavily involved, not that I'm ruling that out necessarily. Or if riding lessons would be pointless if we aren't going to buy a pony in the future. Glad to hear it's still worth it.

OP posts:
SlowlorisIncognito · 19/05/2014 16:59

There are so many different disciplines you can go into with riding, there won't be any pressure to get involved with one particular one or to get involved with anything you don't want to do.

I had riding lessons from the age of 8, but my parents never bought me a pony as they didn't want the commitment. I still had oppourtunities- especially as a fearless, lightweight older teenager, I was often asked to school/exercise children's ponies. All sorts things can come up if you are keen, and some riding schools do offer the chance to compete on their horses. I feel in some ways, I'm very lucky, as I've had the chance to ride a huge variety of horses, including some amazing ones which I could never afford to buy and I just wouldn't have sought this out if I had my own pony/horse.

However, lots and lots of people who ride never do anything especially competitive or serious and many children will enjoy it for a few years and then lose interest as they get older.

With young children it will all start off very low key and chilled out, so try not to worry about the future.

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