By Rachel Rozenboom
Why Pony Club? I’ve come to realize that it isn’t just the sheer amount of knowledge and skills that one learns, it is the community that is created when you surround yourselves with like-minded, supportive individuals. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the small scuffles and tidbits of drama that surround anything anyone ever does, but I’ve recently learned that it is so much more than the small negatives that surround any sport. Rather, the sheer number of members who all want to see one another succeed is what makes this organization so strong and impactful. I’m here to tell you about my most recent experience, my C-3 Dressage certification, that has solidified why I love Pony Club so much.
We all know that certifications come with a certain amount of stress and anxiety that is to be expected when you attend any testing. Will I pass? What if I say the wrong thing? Is my horse going to behave? Despite all of these questions, I want to let you all in on my certification experience which has been by far one of my favorites. In fact, I had fun at my certification! There were lots of ways where my certification could have gone awry, but thanks to a massive team of current and past pony club members, I was able to have a successful weekend.
To begin with, I have been a member of the United States Pony Club for quite some time now. However, I had recently sold my horse due to college and living expenses. For quite a while I juggled whether or not I should stay in Pony Club since I was horseless and didn’t seem to have the time or money to commit to consistent lessons or buying another horse. As Christmas break rolled around, I found myself with a little bit of extra time and decided to step back into riding again, catch riding as many horses as I could. During the few and far between lessons I took, my coach suggested that I work towards my dressage specialty certifications since I had already obtained my C-3 traditional certification. I jumped at the idea, but at the time I did not have a mount suitable for the testing. As luck would have it though, a friend of mine, and rider at the same farm, was going to be unable to keep up the lease on her dressage mount for a short while. With her support and thoughtfulness, as well as my coach’s support, we came up with a plan to let me lease “It’s Friday” the two months leading up to the testing.
While I had my traditional certification, I was well aware that I needed to longe once more for the dressage test which led me to my third supporter. Linda, another friend and client at the farm, had let me ride her horses on multiple occasions when she was out of town or busy. When we found out that my dressage mount was entirely not up for allowing to use side reins for my testing, Linda stepped up to bat and graciously offered up both of her horses as potential longeing candidates. Thankfully, one of them fit the bill and with some work would be a suitable horse for this portion. Linda eagerly agreed to let me take her horse Turbo to the testing and offered to trailer him to the test so that he would not have to stay the whole weekend. On top of all of this as well, she let me use her longeing equipment, allowed me to practice on Turbo countless times, and answered my millions of texts about scheduling, equipment, and so on. Let me tell you, this lady is nothing short of a saint to have let me use Turbo not only for the testing, but also for the countless times I practiced. Linda, having been part of Pony Club in the past, knew what it took to pass these certifications and backed me all the way to help me get to Lexington. She even offered to let me use Turbo for the entire testing when the horse I was leasing injured himself for three weeks. Thankfully, he recovered the week before the testing as Turbo himself decided to go lame the Tuesday of.
No longer having my own horse had led me to sell my trailer and truck as well which posed an entirely new hurdle. I needed a way to get to this testing if I wanted to pass it. I also needed help having to deal with two horses and a tight schedule for the weekend. Someone who understood Pony Club and the demands of the certification was ideal. Thankfully, I reached out to a fourth contact that I knew. Sarah Andres, a graduate B, who lived around the area. Sarah and I were friends from having competed and trained with the same coach, but she had no reason to give up an entire weekend to haul a horse that wasn’t even hers to a certification. However, she willingly gave up that entire weekend and not only hauled my horse “Friday” to the center in Lexington, but she stayed that entire weekend to help me groom, keep me organized, and help keep my nerves at a minimum. She was a godsend! Unfortunately, my parents were unable to attend that weekend, so she stepped up and came along for the ride. And believe me, dealing with my levels of stress and anxiety are no simple task.
Now for supporter number five. Peggi Bindner, dare I say one of the most crucial Pony Club advocates to grace this earth and the reason why I have passed my last three national testings, came to my aid. Peggi is your longeing guru – seriously she deserves a special title for this. Peggi helped critique and teach me how to longe Turbo and spent her entire weekend in Lexington as well for this certification to help me and another club member out. This amazing lady asks for nothing but your best and wants everyone to succeed. Peggi came out to Spring Run not once, not twice, but fourteen times to help me longe Turbo. Along with that, she provided crucial pieces of equipment that I no longer had due to selling my horse. How does one even begin to say thank you after spending that much time helping you and prepping you for the demands of the certification. Not only that, but she helped me at my C-3 traditional certification and spent countless hours with me studying for the HB certification. This lady shows up to, dare I say, every national testing that one of our club members attends to make sure it all runs smoothly.
Remember when I said Turbo went lame the Tuesday before the testing? (I’m pretty sure everything that could go wrong did go wrong right before the certification). Well, Clara Juckett, a fellow club member going for her A that same weekend stepped up to the plate and offered to let me use her A horse for longeing that weekend. Again, Clara had her own certification to worry about, but she let me use her horse Ettie twice to practice before the testing and brought all of the necessary equipment that fit her horse perfectly for this longeing portion. However, as luck would have it, some problems came up and I was no longer able to use Ettie – which I didn’t find out about until I pulled into the equestrian center that Friday night for the testing. Thanks to Peggi, Clara’s mother, and Linda, we ironed out a plan to bring Turbo up, as originally planned, since he had recovered from his hot nail. Clara’s mother, who needed to pick up Clara’s green mount the next day stepped up to bat for me as well. Saturday morning, Clara’s mother loaded up a totally strange mount into her trailer and hauled Turbo to the testing, unloaded him and prepped his stall while I was riding Saturday morning. Peggi then proceeded to groom him and have him all ready to switch tack as soon as I hopped off of Friday. Having only twenty minutes between finishing my switch ride and having Turbo tacked up, acclimated to a new farm, and ready to longe was no simple task, but many hands make light work and everything worked out perfectly in the end. Later that evening, Clara’s mom also brought Turbo home and took care of him as if he were her own.
Last but most certainly not least was my support from afar. My parents were unable to attend my certification, but from the start they have taught me how to be independent and to never give up. I’ve never owned a horse that cost big bucks (compared to most equestrian standards), but they have loved me and supported my equestrian addiction all throughout high school and college. They made sure I learned the meaning behind working hard to achieve my goals. Success tastes all the sweeter afterwards. Not only that, but to the newest supporter behind me, Tony. Someone who had no idea what they were getting themselves into when he volunteered to come watch and help me tack up horses when he could. Goodness knows we horse people are crazy at times, and well, he embraced it all. Including the roller coaster of emotions when Friday proceeded to go lame as well as Turbo. Support isn’t always about the people who are there for you in the precise moments, but it is those who have stood behind you from the start and watched you fall apart only to pick yourself back up again. The shoulder to cry on after a stressful day and when you say goodbye to the horse you had spent six years training and competing. Sometimes life gets busy, but I know I’ve always got an arsenal of people I can talk to when I need life advice or comfort even if I can’t see them.
I am so eternally grateful to the host of people who helped make this certification a success. But let it be known that the fantastic examiners and host made a lasting impression as well. Riders were well prepared, and our testers were so inviting which made for relaxing environment. Our discussions were thorough and enjoyable as well. I’ve never felt more at ease. That is something I don’t say lightly as I tend to be the definition of up-tight, stressed, and anxious. Especially when it comes to all things Pony Club. The testing will leave lasting, positive memories of Pony Club in my mind, but the support is truly what I will remember forever. As equestrians, and as Pony Club members, we are a community. Always give a lending hand when possible, build one another up, and root for the success of everyone around you. For everyone who has helped me along the way – I will always be there for you, and thank you for being there for me when I needed help the most.
The National Youth Board (NYB) serves as a liaison between Pony Club’s youth members and the Board of Governors by communicating the needs, ideas, and concerns of USPC youth. NYB members also work with the national office on projects related to marketing, leadership development, and service for the benefit of the organization and all Pony Club members. Delegates of the NYB are between 18 – 23 years of age, highly motivated and dedicated, and have strong leadership and communication skills. To learn more, log in and visit the National Youth Board page.