Ready … set … GO!

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Get set to cheer your favourite team as the Pony Club Mounted Games gallops into the Dorset County Showground for the first time

Poole & District Pony Club’s Holly riding Dude at NEC Birmingham in the Horse of the Year Show 2022

Think school sports day … but on turbo-charged ponies! The thrilling Pony Club Mounted Games are another new attraction at this year’s Dorset County Show, and it all happens in the brand new Hill Top Ring.
Featuring fearless young riders ranging in age from eight to 15, teams of four or five riders and their speedy ponies compete in a series of exciting relay races that involve a mix of turns, handover skills, vaulting and galloping.

Riders must navigate their way through a variety of obstacle races, which can include bending poles, stepping stones and a stacking race.
All classes rely on the skill, control and agility of the rider to complete without penalties – and of course finish quicker than the other teams. The ponies must be calm, fast and able to turn on a sixpence – which makes great entertainment for spectators!
Each team sports a different colour bib so you can cheer on your favourite.

Top tip – the last rider in each team wears a white headband, so be sure to look out for them crossing the finishing line!
Ian Mariner, Pony Club Mounted Games chairman, explains: ‘These games are an adaptation of the traditional gymkhana, which tends to have solo competitors. Mounted Games focus on teamwork. It’s all about the three C’s – concentration, competitiveness and commitment. Plus, of course, a love of ponies.
‘And the ponies love it too. It’s just like teaching a dog, they come to understand the games and what is being asked of them. They get as excited as the riders!’
‘The more mature ponies are definitely the best,’ says Nicola Way, the Mounted Games Area Coordinator and trainer at the Poole & District Pony Club.
‘They have years of experience to cope well with the sights and sounds of big events.’
‘These exhilarating games are not just about having fun,’ says Ian. ‘They are also teaching these young horse riders valuable skills – improving accuracy, agility, concentration, speed, hand to eye co-ordination, team work and sportsmanship.’

Many of the Mounted Games riders go on to compete for their country, working their way up through local, regional, national and even international championships.
Part of the Pony Club agenda is to also teach young riders about animal welfare and care of their ponies. Many competitions now include an element of stable management as part of the judging process.
The four tiers of Mounted Games competitions culminate in the six top teams competing at The Horse of the Year Show for the coveted Prince Phillip Cup. Ian Mariner says: ‘Many of these young riders you see today competing could end up as stars in the equestrian world. You could be cheering on a future Olympian!’

Did you know?

The Pony Club, founded in 1929, is represented in 27 countries with a worldwide membership exceeding 110,000, making it the largest association of young riders in the world.
Mounted Games is one of nine disciplines Pony Club members can learn, along with show jumping, dressage, endurance, eventing, polo, polocrosse, pony racing and tetrathlon.

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