Twelve-year-old Kayleigh Beaudry talks softly to her steel grey, five-year-old quarter horse/thoroughbred pony who she affectionately calls Tater Tots. She cinches up the saddle and adds a little brushing just to make sure he looks his best.
Tater was a combined birthday/Christmas present to Kayleigh and she couldn’t be happier with any gift.
During her riding lessons with coach Elaine, it was suggested to Kayleigh and her mother Brandy they might be interested in Pony Club.
Run by volunteers, Pony Clubs is for young people between six and 21 years of age who are interested in riding, learning about and/or caring for horses and ponies, with about 3,000 members in about 180 branches in Canada. Worldwide, Pony club is in at least 20 other countries with more than 100,000 members.
For the past two years, Kayleigh’s been a member of the Quesnel Pony Club but didn’t have her own steed, which isn’t a prerequisite for club membership but it helps.
About seven months ago her dream came true and Tater entered her life.
Tater shows his personality with an inquisitive snuffle for anyone who walks by but for Kayleigh her focus is completely captivated by her horse.
“I love everything about horses,” she said with a big grin.
And she added that
love of horses comes
from several family members who also share an equine interest.
As Kayleigh puts Tater through his warmup paces in the agriplex at Alex Fraser Park, Elaine calls out encouragement and instruction. The concentration and pleasure on Kayleigh’s face tells the story. After executing a successful maneuver, the young girl reaches down and pats Tater’s neck, offering words of praise.
Despite not having a pony to begin her Pony Club experience, Kayleigh said she learned all about the horse, the physiology, breeds, the tack (hardware required for riding), stable management, including care of the horse and lessons in theory with testing.
Elaine added Pony Club’s top priority, though, is safety, saying that comes before anything else.
Pony Club also adds an element of comraderie and competition. For Elaine, she loves the three-day eventing competitions in which members execute dressage, stadium jumping and cross country with jumps.
Those interested in western riding can also find a place in Pony Club, Elaine said.
“The only difference between English and western riding is in its application,” she said.
“I’ve done it all and the only thing western riding doesn’t include is jumping.
“Kids join the program for the love of horses, not for a style of riding.”
She recalls one young man who wanted to join and have a horse, not just to ride but to be his buddy. And that is often the case, including Kayleigh.
Twenty-three-year-old Kaitlyn Popik has been riding for 15 years.
“I was in Pony club for three years but never had a horse,” she said.
She canters around the agriplex along with Kayleigh, her skills obvious to even the casual onlooker. She’s comfortable in her English saddle and the bond between rider and horse is evident.
“I had a goal from a very young age, grow up, go to university, get a job, a dog, a truck and a horse,” she said.
“I’ve accomplished all that.”
She remembers back in 1997 when she attended a five-day horse camp. “Then I joined Pony Club.”
Pony Club registration is Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m. in room 200 at Correlieu senior secondary school.
For information on the program and how
it can work for your child and your family, contact Angela, 250-249-5445 or Janet, 250-249-5808.