Hollywood has spent decades capturing horses on film. From the travails of Black Beauty to Triple Crown winner Secretariat, moviegoers always chomp at the bit when rooting for their favorite equines. Now, some of that horse whispering has galloped off the big screen and into a unique Pocono Mountain facility.
Pleasant Ridge Farm, LLC, in Cresco, serves as host for a chapter of the United States Pony Clubs, which develop character, confidence, and sense of community in youth through a program that emphasizes riding, mounted sports, and the care of horses. “Pony Clubs are dedicated to producing tomorrow’s leaders while focusing on core values,” enthuses Briana Yetter, Center Administrator for the Pleasant Ridge Farm Chapter. “Through good horsemanship, members learn teamwork and responsibility. Our education is provided at an individual’s own pace to help achieve personal goals and expand knowledge through teaching others.” Opportunities abound, she notes, for members to join youth boards and councils, participate in international exchanges, and be part of competitions throughout the country and around the world.
The Pony Clubs first put the spring in their step in 1954 and are modeled after a British counterpart, which formed a quarter-century earlier as the junior branch of the Institute of the Horse. Since then, Pony Club has broadened globally, with integrity and stewardship as its main objectives. Back in 1929, the term “pony” was used to describe the mount of a youth equestrian. With a name steeped in the tradition of instructing new generations of riders, the Pony Club mantra continues to focus on erudition and the quality treatment of both horses and ponies.
Pleasant Ridge’s chapter, open to children and parents alike, boasts four separate disciplines. Eventing is known as the equine triathlon because it includes three phases: Dressage, Cross-Country, and Show Jumping. A French term for “training,” Dressage is the harmonious development of the horse and rider in both mind and body. Show Jumping focuses on the agility and attention of the horse and rider as they navigate brightly colored fences. The final classification, Games, provides a mounted sport that instills self-confidence and physical coordination. For Yetter, her ongoing venture is the antithesis of a one-horse town. “Ours is a year-round facility that showcases horse boarding, clinics, and an expansive lesson program. We’re busiest during summer, with camps and a hefty show schedule, but academic instruction is accessible during all four seasons,” she says.
One such unmounted event is Quiz Rally, a knowledge bowl where members are tested on their awareness base in a variety of “stations” that participants face as a team. “Quiz’s mission is to promote a deep understanding and familiarity with the material presented at each certification level,” adds Yetter. “It’s a fundamental and creative learning tool. Many aspects of Pony Club mounted events can be learned at the Rally.”
As league members deepen their skillset, they have the opportunity to advance through the Pony Club Standards of Proficiency. The SOP outline a clear progression of talents in riding and horse management. “Each level requires an increase in know-how and aptitude. For example, a D Level (beginner) Pony Club member would only need to know how to give water, hay, and grain to his or her horse, whereas A Level (advanced) members need to know how to identify different types of hay and grains along with their nutritional values,” the Administrator explains.
Pleasant Ridge allows members to get a jump on their management competency via two monthly meetings. One is mounted, where Club members ride in groups arranged by ability level; the second is unmounted, where guest speakers tender presentations. In addition, other equine professionals furnish clinics on riding and other horse-related topics.
In the last decade, the association has widened its itinerary to meet the needs of equestrians of all ages. This has included offering Pony Club through established riding centers, enhancing certifications to include the disciplines of Dressage and Show Jumping, incorporating Western traditions, adding opportunities at the grassroots level through standardized curriculum and additional online training, and including land conservation in the SOP.
“Pony Club is a truly special institution. Although it revolves around education, we shouldn’t forget the most important element – fun! We are proud and honored to be able to bring this unique opportunity to our local horse community and be part of the advancement of true horsemen and women,” Yetter concludes.
Some serious horseplay, indeed.
Pleasant Ridge Farm, LLC
Pleasant Ridge Pony Club Center
122 Barn Swallow Lane, Cresco, PA
By: Tom Eccleston