More than 9000 people are presently enjoying the benefits of membership to a Pony Club in New Zealand – with many of them meeting every week at a rally to learn more about their equine friend.
NZ Pony Clubs Association General Manager Graeme Sole said the organisation was marvellous for helping people interact with horses and to help them establish a relationship with animals.
And, he said, the children that attend Pony Club also gain a sound respect for horses.
“I’d like to think that anyone who wants to go to Pony Club can.
“Some kids might never want to compete, they might just want to have fun, and Pony Club is a great place for that.
“They learn how to care for their pony, they have a great time and they learn to be responsible, for themselves and their mount.”
But while the local Pony Club presents a great opportunity to learn about horses, there’s also the opportunity to meet others with similar interests.
At the moment, there are about 240 Pony Clubs in New Zealand, with membership varying from about 10 through to more than 150 members.
But despite the many benefits of attending Pony Club, membership has decreased over the past decade or so.
Ironically, while there wouldn’t be many New Zealand horse riders aged over 40 who have not experienced what Pony Club has to offer, the same could not be said for the younger generation.
Increasing demands on leisure time over the last 20 years has seen fewer children join Pony Club, with membership today being about half of what it was 15 years ago.
Having said that, Mr Sole did say that more recently membership had remained fairly static. “It’s neither up nor down.”
Mr Sole believes that changes to the Kiwi lifestyle had been one factor to bring about this change.
“People used to have lifestyle blocks with a couple of ponies, now they have a couple of alpacas instead.”
And, he said, there are not the numbers of country people involved with Pony Club.
“There’s just not the farm kids around, but there’s been a big increase in urban membership.
“City clubs have a lot of members.”
Why the decrease in farm kids?
The number of farm kids with ponies might have decreased, but the other factor, which has further compounded the issue, is transportation to Pony Club.
“Kids used to ride to Pony Club. They can’t do that now; it’s too dangerous.
“And in the cities, horses are no longer allowed on the footpaths.
“So they nearly all have to be floated.”
With this, comes the need to invest a reasonable sum of money to purchase a horse float or truck, and of course, a larger commitment of time is also required from parents.
The downside is that many parents are either unwilling or financially unable to oblige.