Friday, September 3, 2010

Editorial: Universal benefit

A few days ago I received a flier in my email for a US pony clinic that is regionally taking place and sponsored by the USDF, hosted by the pony maven herself, Lendon Gray.

How proud I was to read that ponies are finally getting a boost from the national governing body. And how disappointed I was when I read further that it was just for the juniors*.
 I am open that I am an adult pony rider. It's been my primary interest now for the past six plus years. This is despite being aged out of the FEI pony division for over a decade and now being considered an adult amateur.

I also consider myself very lucky. My primary mount, Sinari, is working FEI, and hopefully Sincere will follow along. I'm also lucky to have exposure to the best in the industry to help facilitate that goal of continuously reaching for FEI.

Unfortunately there are some hard truths to this path:

If you are an adult, training/riding FEI on a pony, in the US, you are out of luck with help from your governing body. FEI doesn't recognize adults on vertically challenged equines (can't compete CDI's unless specified pony classes), and unlike Europe, there aren't specific pony awards, strong pony verbands or governing body supported shows that support the production of dressage ponies.

To add to this conundrum the pony-kid population that does dressage that is qualified for these clinics are low, and sometimes non-existent in some areas. Not to mention the pony population to truly support them is lagging as well.

It is also been known for sometime that the main population of pony candidates isn't with the juniors, it's with the adult amateur/open population who has the time and financial backing to develop the population. 

While, this is changing, slowly and for the better, developing ponies with a varied pool of talent, bloodlines and rider capabilities alongside the sheer square footage of the regions is dauntless.

So, if the idea is to develop ponies the are competitive with Europe, while remain competitive to the FEI levels and boost the population, it would be of benefit to have equal consideration among both adults and juniors to participate in the clinics.

This would not only give the pony population a national way of being developed to team quality, but begin to develop a market for breeders to showcase their offspring, a start of an end market and the potential creation of a network of pony schoolmasters. This system creates known riders to develop the pool of talent to further the quality, but also allows breeders to produce the future quantities (weeding out and developing bloodlines) to support the upcoming talent.

But, until a population is developed by the national governing body that is rewarded to its dedication to the ponies, the pony population will remain with the hunters and driving and not dressage.

*Lendon later disclosed on Facebook that they do accept adults as second tier choices.
*Ellie Brimmer also mentioned that Para Equestrians are allowed to compete ponies at the international level, despite age and status with their NGB. 


Unknown said...

It's a shame that it's like that. I know some seriously talented ponies. My own, being one, but I might be a little biased. My trainer is attempting to find a good junior to lease her dressage pony out to so that he can compete FEI.

Story said...

Coming from a working hunter background, I'm familiar with the "ponies are for kids" rule. But maybe they will come around someday. The Arabian section of the USEF rule book now includes a working hunter division for horses 14.2 and under to be ridden by adults. Not that I've ever seen that class actually offered at any of the shows but there is hope!

Kelly said...

I'm not bothered by the ponies are for kids.

What I'm bothered by is that most kids are not capable of creating schoolmasters that are needed for the sport.

Nor are they capable of promoting young horses effectively.

So there is a huge gap between schoolmaster and young pony. To fill it you need capable adults and/or young riders who actively enjoy working with ponies and are rewarded for it.

The other part I'm worried for is the American tendency to classify things under as many categories as possible (e.g. hunter/dressage/jumping/eventing prospect). These are incredibly different disciplines with vastly different needs.

This does ponies a great disservice not only in performance but in the breeding shed as well. We need programs (and some are already in place, hunters have it) for the specific disciplines that effectively promote the discipline.

Dressager said...

While I grew out of ponies after less than a year of riding (6' rider lol) I still think they are wonderfully talented equines and I have seen ponies doing dressage that make my jaw drop!

But like you were saying, the kiddos aren't exactly interested in dressage, and many are certainly not trained enough to train up a schoolmaster. But adults are. So why should adults and young riders not be more widely included in competing and other opportunities? If there is a larger dressage pony pool then perhaps it will get the kiddos interested. I know when I was a child, a 16 hand schoolmaster was not exactly my idea of beginner lesson ride.

Besides, ponies (at least the Welsh ones I have met) are just so talented and capable of successfully performing so many different disciplines. I would love to see them more widely used in dressage, like Arabs and other breeds have been doing recently. Dressage is a sport that is beneficial for any equine, so any equine should be able to participate.

Merideth said...

i ride a very talented 14.2 hand rocky mountain spotted pony/dutch warmblood, we are approaching third level work (slowly since i trained her from stratch)
i can compete in FEI junior and young rider, however my pony cant!!
it hacks me off to no end that i can't compete FEI junior next year because my horse is a couple inches too short, and i'm too old for FEI pony. so what do we do now??

Kelly said...

Paigley- Go open.

Merideth said...

sorry it just hacks me off that theres nothing specifically for ponies where the rider doesn't have to be a certain age

Kelly said...

Paigely- While I agree that there should be awards and specific educational opportunities to enhance the ponies community standings, having event-specific things is trickier.

There is already one championship program in place that caters to ponies, what we really need is a little more Gladstone, and USEF support. As to what this particular show has accomplished yet, it remains to be seen.

In the meantime, go open, if you believe in your training and abilities designated classes aren't particularly necessary (they are nice though).