Mad about ponies

Old Bexley Equestrian Centre

Old Bexley Equestrian Centre - Credit: Archant

Do you have a child who wants to spend every possible minute with the love of their life? ‘Pony Mad’ it’s called, it’s a passion that is passed on from generation to generation and is catered for brilliantly by The Pony Club - here’s how to find the best club for your child in Kent

The Pony Club was founded in England in 1929 but, unlike popular perception, membership is not restricted to the British Isles.

In fact, the Pony Club is active in no less than 27 countries, has a membership that exceeds 110,000 and is the largest association for young riders in the world.

There is no lower age limit but the upper age limit is 25. The Pony Club’s vision and values embrace encouraging young people to ride, providing instruction in riding and horsemanship, educating members in horse care and promoting the highest ideals of sportsmanship, citizenship and loyalty.

Granted independent charity status in 1997, there are just under 350 Pony Club branches and around 600 centres attached to riding schools in the UK. Riding and the related sports are flourishing in Kent and top the list of favourite recreations and sports for a lot of young people.

Herne Pony Club

The size of branches varies a lot and the Herne branch, near Canterbury, is one of the smallest with just 16 members ranging in age between eight and 16.

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Fortunate to have two regular training locations – an outdoor arena for the summer and an indoor arena for the winter – members are very active in both team and individual events.

Herne members have competed in some highly prestigious shows, including Olympia (min-major relay show jumping), the Windsor Horse Show, area eventing and dressage and more.

Branches are dependent on a supportive committee and Herne is very lucky to have a dedicated District Commissioner in Natalie Legg and a keen and enthusiastic chief instructor in Lee Hudson.

One of the highlights of the year is a camp which Herne holds annually during the first week of the summer holidays.

More info: Philippa Wigdahl, 07780 661275

Ashford Valley Hunt Pony Club

Ashford Valley is a thriving branch, with nearly 100 members ranging in age from three to 24, 15 per cent of whom are boys.

This branch has a lot of members with their own training facilities, which they make available for rallies free of charge.

District Commissioner Pippa Jones, who is a community midwife, has a long association with the branch.

A member as a teenager, when her own children became members she joined the committee, became the branch’s Assistant District Commissioner and in 2009 took over the big job of DC.

Chief instructor Keely Harrison runs a successful livery yard at Brenchley where she produces horses and ponies up to Horse of the Year Show level.

She also trains racing ponies, has had more than 40 winners and has been the recipient of the South East Racing title on several occasions.

Keely is a great hunt supporter and feels there is a lot to be gained by riding in the hunting field, but she adds: “My huge passion is teaching children to ride.”

The branch excels at Tetrathlon in both team and individual events. Last year Kathryn Clarke, riding her 16.1 thoroughbred mare Irish Honours, was placed third in an Intermediate section at the Nationals and has since been asked to join the national training programme with a view to international selection.

Eventing is another discipline at which Ashford Valley excels, with members qualifying for the PC Championships.

Tom Jackson, a member until 2013, has been in the GB Junior and Young Rider eventing teams and last year secured seventh place in the Young Riders’ European competitions.

Pony Club camp is popular with members of all ages and this year junior camp is being held at Wittersham and the senior camp at Benenden.

More info: Pippa Jones, 07887 855473

Romney Marsh Pony Club

Romney Marsh is another branch with a large membership: 37 boys and 108 girls who range in age between three and 25. All members either own a horse or pony or have regular access to one on loan.

Local landowners are generous in making ground available for training and, during the summer months, the branch is lucky to have a home base at Delmonden Farm, Hawkhurst kindly provided by the Edwards family.

Kate Edwards has been involved with the Pony Club since she was a child, when she was a member of the Moray and Nairn branch, of which her mother is the current DC. The family tradition continues as Kate’s four children have all been members of RMPC.

The branch uses various instructors in order to cater for members’ specific interests, Carole Sommerville is the branch secretary and the club benefits from some very supportive friends.

Romney Marsh competes in all the disciplines: dressage, show jumping, eventing, tetrathlon, polocrosse, pony racing, and mounted games.

Individuals and teams regularly qualify for the Pony Club Championships and everyone is delighted that the Prince Philip Cup mounted games team has qualified for this year’s Horse of the Year Show.

The branch holds three summer camps – mini, junior and senior junior camp.

More info: Carol Sommerville,

East Kent Hunt Pony club

East Kent Hunt (EKH) is another large branch having a membership of 120 (30 of whom are boys), ranging in age from four to 21.

Roz Bacon is DC, the assistant DC is Clare Martin and all members are horse or pony owners and the branch is very active in all equestrian disciplines. EKH uses a wide range of training venues and will be holding three summer camps again this year – senior, junior and mini. Members compete in all disciplines and regularly qualify for the mounted games zone finals.

EKH was delighted to be selected to pilot the Young Equestrians’ Club (YEC) Created by Hoof – the British Equestrian Federation Legacy programme - in collaboration with the Pony Club.

It is targeted on 13-16 year-olds and aims to provide a social element with opportunity to develop life skills.

More info: Roz Bacon 01233 750327

Horton Riding Centre Pony Club

(Pony Club linked)

Horton Riding Centre Pony Club, based at Monks Horton, is run by Danielle Barton who worked part-time for top show jumper Guy Williams for seven years.

Danielle is DC/chief instructor and is assisted by Heather Jones who specialises in flatwork and dressage.

Currently with a membership of 22 – split 19 girls and just three boys – ages range from four to 15. Danielle comments: “Club membership is small but I want membership to grow organically. I truly believe in quality over quantity.”

Facilities include an all-weather outdoor arena, a small cross-country course and a jumping paddock. The centre holds two camps a year, one at Easter and the other in the summer, when specialist instructors are brought in to provide training for Western riding, Polo-cross, show jumping, pony racing and other disciplines.

Members are encouraged to take part in team and individual events and to take appropriate Pony Club tests.

More info: Danielle Barton 07854 610820

Find out more

Pony Club is a way of life for many people and branches are dependent on the help and support they receive from members’ mothers, fathers, relatives and friends. A comprehensive list of Kent-based Pony Clubs and Pony Club-linked centres can be found at:

In 1998 the Pony Club made a big step forward by introducing the Centre Membership Scheme. Linking with The Pony Club allows riding centres/schools access to all the training resources available.

At the current time there are in the region of 600 Pony Club Linked Centres involving about 16,000 non-pony-owning young riders. This allows children and young people who don’t own a horse or pony to participate in PC activities and it is possible for riders to progress from the E-Test right through to the very difficult A-Test.