The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., was founded as a nonprofit national youth horsemanship organization on February 24, 1954 with 18 formerly unaffiliated clubs and an estimated 750 to 800 members. The USPC founders were enthusiastic foxhunters who recognized the need for an organization to provide sound instruction for all interested children, especially those who otherwise could not afford expensive lessons.
In a time before the United States Pony Clubs, Inc., there were local Pony Clubs in the U.S., some dating from the 1930s. These clubs existed as branches of the British Pony Club, which was founded in 1928.
In Great Britain following World War I, riding for pleasure was an activity for aristocrats who hired staff to groom and care for their horses and teach the children how to ride. However, as the culture of artistocracy began to decline, so did equestrian pursuits. A number of visionaries of the British Horse and Pony Society formed The Pony Club to teach the children so that the future of horse sports and the love for horses and riding would continue into new generations. (At that time, the term “pony” was used to describe the mount of any youth equestrian, regardless of size.)
The concept caught on, and by the 1930s, the British Pony Club had established several branches in the northeast United States. However, the affiliation suffered during the difficult World War II years as communications were interrupted, and the British presence in American Pony Clubs dissolved.
Planning for the Future
Following the war, as social and economic conditions slowly recovered, American equestrian enthusiasts began to resume their regular hunts and riding events. However, without structured training for the younger generations, Louise Lott Bedford was concerned about the future of equestrian sport, and she was not the only one.
A temporary Advisory Committee consisting of Mrs. Dean (Louise) Bedford, Chairman, Col. Howard C. Fair, and Alexander Mackay-Smith called a meeting of interested persons on November 8, 1953, to propose the establishment of the United States Pony Clubs as a viable national organization. A constitution and bylaws were drawn up for the club, and a governing document was produced. The group also applied for and was granted 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization status with the Internal Revenue Service.
The United States Pony Clubs, Inc, is Formed
On the crisp New England morning of February 24, 1954, eight individuals designated as the incorporators signed the articles of incorporation and The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. was born. From the Articles of Incorporation, the new organization had the following purpose:
“To develop and encourage among children throughout the United States a knowledge of horsemanship including the care of horses, to encourage fair and friendly competition, to develop understanding of and sympathy for the horse by its rider, and by these and other means to help develop in young riders strength of character, alert minds and bodies, and to take any and all action which may be considered appropriate to the foregoing purposes.”
In 1954, the club registration fee was $25. Pony Club member’s initiation fee was 50 cents, and annual dues 50 cents. One hundred and twelve individuals were supporting members of the USPC. By the end of 1954, there were 22 member clubs in seven regions.
From the beginning, USPC has had a close relationship with fox hunting, as many of the founders enjoyed and participated in hunts. The first USPC Annual Meeting (now Convention) was held on January 29, 1955 in New York City, in conjunction with the annual Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) meeting.
The first USPC Rally was held June 19 – 21, 1955 at Col Howard Fair’s Foxhill Farm in Unionville, PA. Thirteen teams participated with The Radnor Hunt Pony Club taking home the B Team trophy and Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Pony Club the C Team trophy.
Since then, the USPC hit the ground at a steady trot and has continued to grow today, including over 500 clubs and centers in 41 regions. With a name steeped in the tradition of educating the next generation of equestrians, Pony Club continues to focus on education and quality care of both horses and ponies, while also supporting members as they build leadership skills through the USPC programs.
History adapted from A Story to Tell, by Robert R. Morris (The Donning Company Publishers, 2004).
Celebrate USPC Founders Day
In honor of Founders Day, consider showing your support with a gift to the Annual Fund. A gift of any amount is a great way to celebrate the founding of USPC. To learn how the Annual Fund supports Pony Club, read more on the blog: All About the USPC Annual Fund