THE ZETLAND FAMILY: Members of Zetland Hunt Pony Club enjoyed a rally at Stapleton Manor during the school half term break
THE ZETLAND FAMILY: Members of Zetland Hunt Pony Club enjoyed a rally at Stapleton Manor during the school half term break

ONE of the country’s longest established pony clubs is going from strength to strength as it continues to offer a top riding education which lead to lifelong friendships among members.

Riding, equine care and animal welfare are the cornerstones of the Zetland Hunt Pony Club, which is now in its 86th year of introducing young enthusiasts to the sport.

The club has 83 active members, aged between five and 25, who are given the opportunity to compete at regional and national level.

Regular rallies and camps are also organised to offer a safe environment where children are taught best practice.

Individual and group lessons by accredited instructors are available to members.

Chief instructor Moray Nicholson said: “We are very keen and hot on education when it comes down to it.

“We are trying to train our kids to be better jockeys and riders.”

She added: “It is a great club. The children learn so many life skills and they develop friends for life.

“We have got lots of good riders and I am excited about that. We have tried to put a bit of education back into the training.

“I am very keen on trying to produce riders that will last a long time. I am not interested in a quick glory.

“We have had a lot of good success. We had a great year last year. We qualified teams for literally every discipline at grassroots and nationals.

“Hopefully, we will do a similar thing this year. We have already qualified a team of three for horse and pony care in the Pony Club Championships in Cheshire in August.”

The Zetland Hunt Pony Club provides training sessions for members all year round.

Area competitions run between March and August. An annual pony club camp is always well attended and dismounted rallies are also held to teach horse management skills.

Committee member Jane Richardson said: “It is about making sure members know how to feed their horse, check their tack fits correctly, how to raise their fitness levels and health maintenance.

“We work closely with vets and farriers so members know how to maintain a healthy horse. That education will last them a life time.”

Although competitions help the young riders to develop potential, members don’t have to compete.

Ms Richardson added: “We are a very friendly and welcoming club.

“We do have a lot of competitive and successful riders but we also cater for the family pony and children who just want to socialise, enjoy their riding and learn more about their pony.”

Camp committee member Lynn Riley-Fox sees first-hand how the club benefits her 11-year-old son, Max.

She said: “Personally, I think the most amazing part of the club is the fun and friendships.

“The children also get some of the best instruction and have lots of opportunities to compete.

“Max loves every discipline that the club offers. Every child is supported and is involved.”

Similarly, rally secretary and instructor Sarah Clark, who lives in Butterknowle, spoke highly of the club’s offerings. Her two sons, Aaron, 11 and Alfie, eight, are both members.

She said: “I was a member of pony club when I was young.

“The experience and friendships and everything about the club is lovely.

“The way you are taught by different instructors, you pick up so many tactics you can use.

“I wanted my boys to have that experience too.”

The youngsters themselves also spoke fondly of the club.

Aaron Clarke said: “I love learning new stuff and meeting new friends and instructors.”

Evie Hole-Todd, 13, who lives in Gainford, added: “I have been riding since I was two and I got my first pony in 2012 and wanted to join the club.

“I love the people at the club. Everyone is really good friends.

“When I ride I go by myself and I sort my horses myself. If I did not learn what I do at pony club I would not be able to do it.”

District commissioner Andrea Bartlett said: “We are called the Zetland family and we all muck in together to get the job done.

“It is all about the children. As long as they are having fun and learning at the same time we are happy.”

The club is currently preparing to host the northern region tetrathlon and hunter trail later this month at Stapleton Manor, near Darlington.

The event is open to more than 3,000 members who will be hoping to qualify for the National Tetrathlon Championships later this year.

Tetrathletes will be required to complete four elements – cross-country riding, pistol shooting, running and swimming.

Chief instructor Mr Nicholson, who is also a British Eventing course builder, has specifically designed the cross-country course for the event.

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