The Jurga Report would like to report that hell has frozen over, pigs have flown and the world may not be flat, after all. The US Pony Club sent a press release today asking for feedback about expanding its traditional program to embrace western "activities" in the future.
From the press release:
According to Tom Adams, President of U.S. Pony Clubs, the historically English-riding based organization is looking for feedback from the equestrian community regarding the possibility of providing Western activities within the framework of Pony Club.
Adams states, "Since we started Pony Club in 1954, our programs have been oriented to English riding. In the past few years there has been interest expressed in offering the Pony Club experience to those young people taking part in Western disciplines as well. The USPC Board of Governors is seeking input from the equestrian community outside of Pony Club about providing such a program."
Adams adds, "If you're not already affiliated with Pony Club, we are seeking your input to help in the decision process. Your participation is very important, and I urge you to take just a few minutes of your time to respond to this short survey."
The survey is available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BQPFLGN
(end of quoted text)
That's all the information that is available at this time. The Pony Club program is a highly successful model that combines competition and education and embraces not just what is needed to win, but what is needed to properly care for the horse in all phases of its life.
There are many points here that can make your head spin. The disconnect between the perception of safety concerns in Pony Club vs western disciplines in terms of wearing helmets and matching children in size to their ponies would be a sticky wicket for one side or the other to swallow, for instance.
Pony Club has always been popular in some regions of the USA, but it has been quite strictly limited to developing well-rounded Pony Clubbers who are encouraged to transition into eventing, or specialize in dressage or jumping. I know that 4-H dominates in other parts of the USA and seems more oriented to western riding, showmanship and breeding. Breed organizations like the AQHA have youth-oriented programs as well for western-oriented young riders.
Does the burgeoning popularity of reining--and its hoopla at the recent World Equestrian Games--have something to do with this? I don't know but I think that the resources of the Pony Club should be available to every child in the USA who wants to be the best horseperson he or she can be, regardless of what saddle is on the rack in the barn. I'd also add that those resources should be available regardless of the child's finances, but I know that organizations like the 4-H and Pony Club are strapped for cash just like everyone else.
However, the future of the horse industry is in these organizations, and in the youth clubs of the breed and sport organizations. We should all be supporting the programs that have proven their worth and that are led by nurturing educators who understand how to keep young people interested in horses whether they win or lose in the ring.
It's important to help people of all ages find their comfortable places in the horse world so they'll stick around and keep learning about horses and have a support structure when and if they need it. Many adult new owners enter and leave horse ownership because they have no support network. This is a separate problem that needs to be addressed but we can and should do better for the young riders, in every way we can.