The prestigious Founders Award is given each year to one or more people who have made a significant contribution to Pony Club at the local, regional, and national levels over a period of 20 years or more. This honor is reserved for Pony Club’s most worthy and dedicated volunteers. Two individuals were recognized with the Founders Award during the 2024 USPC Convention, Presented by Via Nova Training, and Sponsored by Lincoln Memorial University.
Rae Birr started asking her very suburban family for a horse when she was 3. At age 12, persistence paid off and she got her own horse and has never been horseless since. Jericho Forest Pony Club in the Central New England Region was active in her hometown in Massachusetts. She joined and graduated as a B with her first horse. In college, she earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and became a veterinarian, married Bruce, and three children followed. Her older children were active youth members. Trevor, who is now in the Air Force, is an H-A HM, C-3 EV alum. Marlie, who is an H-A HM, C-3 EV, B DR certified member, continues in Pony Club and is a USPC National Examiner, Center Administrator (CA), and Regional Instruction Coordinator in the Lake Shore Region, all while she teaches riding and trains horses. Rae’s youngest could correctly answer any Horse Management question posed to him, but never joined USPC.
Rae has been in the Lake Shore Region since 2000 and served as the District Commissioner (DC) of Big Bay Pony Club from 2004 to 2005. She became Vice Regional Supervisor in 2005 and then Regional Supervisor in 2006 and has served that role for the past 17 years. She supports the region in everything she does and is extremely involved in the success of the Lake Shore Region and the events held there. She is compassionate and fair in guiding the DCs and CAs. She is dedicated to the success of Pony Club and all of the adults and youth it reaches.
In addition to her regional roles, Rae has served on the USPC Board of Governors since 2016. She begins her three-year term as the Vice President of Regional Administration in 2024. She has also served as a Visiting Instruction Committee member from 2020 to 2023 and was previously the Chair from 2009 to 2019. In addition, she has served as the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee from 2022 to 2025, as Secretary on the Executive Committee from 2022 to current, and as the Marketing and Communications Committee Chair from 2016 to 2022.
She also has served as a member on the following committees, to name a few: the Governance Committee, the Development Committee, the Discipline Promotions Committee, the Instruction Council, the Program Administration Council, the Organizational Structure Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Regional Resource Committee. She has served as a resource for the Activities Council, Activities Distance Riding Committee, the Development Committee, the Governance Committee, the Marketing and Communications Committee, the Polocrosse Committee, the Strategic Planning Document Review Committee, the Visiting Instruction Committee, and others.
Eileen Corl Kirby
My Pony Club career began in 1959 when Bridlewild Pony Club in the Eastern Pennsylvania Region was founded. Our first rally was at Rose Tree Pony Club, and I was a C-2. We looked like ragamuffins—boy, have times changed! At one point while at Bridlewild, my family had a D-1 (Glenn), a D-2 (Kenny), a C-1 (Anita), a C-2 (Phyllis), a B (Wiley), and an A (Eileen). My dad was District Commissioner (DC) and my mom was the Secretary. We covered all the bases! In the “Dark Ages,” we had only combined training competitions, then Mounted Games.
I competed at my first national rally as a B in 1963. I won with my faithful horse, Angus. I rode him for about six hours before my dressage test and walked the cross-country course four times to be sure not to miss a flag because it was in the infield of the Keeneland Racecourse. Captain Jack Fritz passed me for my B and later came to my wedding—that was special!
I got my A while at the University of Kentucky. After college, George Helwig put me on the Test Prep Committee, and I wrote many test questions for the regional and national rallies. I have been a Regional Supervisor and a Vice Regional Supervisor for Delmarva Region. Also, I have been a National Examiner for many years and a Chief Horse Management Judge, for what seems like forever, at many regional and national rallies up and down the East Coast. I was also fortunate to chaperone three international exchanges in Hong Kong, Canada, and Australia.
My daughter, Ashley, is a C-3 and a Pony Club volunteer. She was an international Mounted Games player and continues to teach Pony Club lessons and Games clinics. Her son, Nicolas, is a new member of Chesapeake Pony Club, joining his cousin, Ella, who is a D-2. My husband, Richard, is Treasurer for Chesapeake Pony Club. I am still recruiting members for Pony Club and still riding, although not jumping high jumps anymore, with my 17-hand Thoroughbred, Just Plain Charlie. Our herd is down to seven horses, which my husband says is plenty.