<< Prev Entry

Bonus Features

Ponies, through the years

Man o'War Cocktails

Pony Club Nationals, by guest author Sophie Gary










Page from my sketchbook - drawn while enjoying a Bloody Mary each day... Pen and ink, watercolor, and collage.

Page from my sketchbook - drawn while enjoying a Man o'War each day... Pen and ink, watercolor, and collage.

(click to enlarge)

Google Places and Platypie

I’m with the Band Eventer

September 4, 2014

It’s dusk, the fireflies are blinking and I’m sitting outside the camper watching a little girl across the way prancing her acrylic horse on a picnic table. Softly, I can hear her singing, "Do you wanna build a snowman…"  It seems so long ago that I watched little Calli make set-ups and playing out elaborate stories with her Breyer horses. (And we thought THAT was expensive!)

make set-ups and playing out elaborate stories with her Breyer horses

It’s now the summer of 2014, and we are back at the Kentucky Horse Park for the second time in just over two months. We’re here to see Calli compete for the first time at the Pony Club Nationals along with three of her barn buddies. (See Sophie’s story)

Now, we are no longer allowed to serve as grooms and stablehands. (thanks for that!) In fact, we are not even allowed near the barns or the girls except during the visiting hour from 3-4 each day. The girls were mostly too busy to even look up at that time.

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park
Photo credit: Julie Hagen

We can watch them compete, but are not allowed to talk to them before or after their rides. At least we are allowed to cheer… which we certainly did.

The amount of hard work Pony Clubbers put in is astounding and combined with an almost total lack of sleep produces a never to be forgotten experience. A kid either loves it or hates it. (Calli loved it, especially all she learned about caring for and working safely with a strong and healthy horse.) The Care of Horses is by far the most time consuming part of a Pony Club Three-Day Event, and in most ways the most important, for it is at the barn while performing tasks with team mates that the skills of "…teamwork including cooperation, communication, responsibility, leadership, mentoring, teaching and fostering a supportive yet competitive environment…"1 are truly developed.

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park

Calli running the Rolex course at eight years old.

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park

Exchanging strategies with an old cross-country buddy.

I remember the hours Calli would spend with Barbie Horse Games on her Gameboy and Wii - endless grooming, feeding, rescuing and earning outfits for Barbie and show gear for her horses. Now it’s the real thing!

A horse owner’s two best friends are the baby wipe and the toothbrush. They are used to clean ears, eyes and noses not to mention around the horse’s butt and parts too secret to mention.

Listerine mouthwash is used to clean tails and get rid of dandruff. Yes, horses get dandruff, and its a point off for any speck found by the Pony Club inspectors.

Eventing involves three disciplines:

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park

One hour before each event the horse and rider receive a formal inspection, and while the most important aspect is the safety element (proper stirrups, helmets tagged and properly fitted, all stitching safe and secure). The tack, the horse, and the rider must be absolutely dirtless and dustless. No body part or crevice on the horse is left un-inspected. Woe to the rider whose horse decides to relieve itself on the walk over to inspection…  Leather tack must gleam as if it were brand new, and yet must be supple, as if it had been used for 20 years. The metal parts are to be polished so brightly that they give a sunburn or blind one. All this must be achieved with no evidence that a product has been used in getting the horse and tack ready. It is no wonder that horse and rider look so damn beautiful as they race by in cross-country. Gleaming…

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse ParkThe rider must also be immaculate, although over all their perfect clothing, hair and boots they must wear a crinkly, super nerdy pinny with their number on it along with a medical armband. (These two items must be worn by the riders at all times - lunch, the bathroom, whatever…)

Finally along with grooming demands, there is the mucking of stalls, hauling of manure wagons, sweeping and hosing of the stabling areas.

Four work kits must be maintained with every item in them labeled:

One hour after each event, the horse and rider are inspected again. The horse must be clean, sweat and saliva free, with boots and all leather polished and clean.

Calli and her friends reported every minute of work was absolutely worth it just for the chance to ride cross-country on the Rolex Course.

Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park

Not being allowed to help at the barn left some time for "adult fun," in between the times we could watch the girls compete. We rented a golf cart for the week, so we scooted easily from place to place in shade and comfort. Selfie: Pony Club Nationals, Lexington, KY. Kentucky Horse Park

There were three favored adult activities…

Park on a little hill near the barns and try to watch Calli as she cleaned the stalls, washed Davie, endlessly polished her tack or lined up for one of the inspections.

Lounge around.

This was Kentucky, so there were bourbon tasting booths and lovely patio bars scattered about the giant facility for the spectators. Being there with Liz and Bernie was awesome. We got to drink Man o’Wars, a healthy cocktail of lemonade, muddled basil and strawberries mixed with Jim Beam bourbon. We thought of it as a stress reliever while our tension grew as Calli remained in first place after each of the first two days. Watching her was like being a groupie in the nosebleed seats at a concert, but in the end, it felt like a swimming competition, she came in second by two-tenths of a point.

We loved every minute of this 3-day event and could not be prouder. (tearing-up now…sniff)

1- Pony Club Core Values Statement

Questions? Feedback?