March 2014 Issue - page 7

March 2014
Page 7
by Suzanne Bush
They call themselves the
Avengers, but they look more
like pony-crazy young girls, trot-
ting and cantering their ponies
in wide circles, waiting to start
practice. They’re bundled up
against the cold, gray February
afternoon, while their moms
Look Out, Prince Philip! Perkiomen Creek Pony Club is Coming for the Cup
huddle under blankets along the
side of the giant indoor arena.
The ponies are fresh and eager
to get to work—or to buck and
spin. These shivering Avengers
are not unlike the cool, notorious
British super-agents. But their
feats of derring-do are done on
horseback. They’re the junior
Mounted Games team from
Perkiomen Creek Pony Club in
Montgomery County and they
are prepping for a trip to Lexing-
ton, KY in April.
As one of the four regional
champions in Mounted Games,
they will be part of a Pony Club
contingent competing for the
Prince Philip Cup at the Rolex
Three-Day in April. As juniors,
they will compete against other
junior teams. Wayne Quarles, the
US Pony Club’s Activities and
Events Director, says that teams
from all over the United States
competed at championship events
in 2013. Championships Midwest
in Kansas City included teams
from the West and Midwest;
Championships East, which was
held in Lexington, VA, included
teams from the Eastern US. Four
teams were selected based on
their cumulative scores in the
games and scores in Horse Man-
agement. “We had junior games
at the Midwest with only a few
teams,” Quarles explains. “Three
of the four top teams came from
the East.”
Horse Management is part of
every Pony Club competition and
it is at the heart of the organiza-
tion’s mission. So competitors
are judged not only on their skill
levels at Games or Dressage,
but they are also judged on their
knowledge and application of
principles that lead to safe, sound
horse care practices.
Snow & Ice Interfere
On this freezing Sunday,
they’re on their ponies for the
first practice in weeks. Snow and
ice and a fugitive polar vortex
have been conspiring to keep
them out of their saddles. But the
forces arrayed against them serve
only to accentuate their determi-
nation and spirit.
Patti Naji is the Co-District
Commissioner (DC) for the
Perkiomen Creek Pony Club.
She’s been part of Pony Club
for 15 years, and explains that
Pony Club originated in Great
Britain in 1929, and much of the
terminology used in the rules and
the nomenclatures for officials
are throwbacks to Great Britain.
Thus, she is a DC, as opposed
to a regional director. Naji got
involved when her kids were
young. “What I do is organize
the activities for the club. Try
to make sure they’re prepared
to participate in the competitive
activities—although not all the
activities are competitive. Many
of them are educational.”
In fact, the core of the Pony
Club mission is to educate kids
about horses. Colonel Howard
C. Fair, one of the founders of
the United States Pony Club,
explained it eloquently. “Our real
job is to train our youngsters in
the basic care and love of a pony
or horse which they can train,
ride, and enjoy to the fullest
extent, and thereby appreciate
everything that this wonderful
relationship can mean to man and
beast.” That was back in 1953—
light years away from today’s
milieu of electronics in which
young people surf, communi-
cate, entertain themselves, make
friends, unfriend, tweet, snapchat
and carry on virtual lives of diz-
zying speed and complexity.
Col. Fair’s high-minded
sentiment stacks up pretty nicely
against what seems to be an ava-
lanche of distractions that compete
for kids’ attention today. The facts
behind these young ladies who
would rather be in this freezing
arena than almost anywhere else
on earth are eye-opening. Today
there are more than 600 Pony
Clubs in the United States and
more than 10,000 members. Pony
Club now operates in 31 countries,
with more than 130,000 members.
Add to that all the parents who
volunteer as coaches, drivers,
cheerleaders, pony walkers, etc.
A Team Sport
Kaja Newell, Elise Bar-
berra, Jaycee Blythe, Madison
Cardamone and Leah Northing-
ton are the Avengers. Newell,
who rides a sparkplug of a pony
appropriately named Sparky,
explains that Pony Club has
helped her find more ways to
appreciate all things equine.
“I think along the way it has
helped encourage me,” she
explains. “Before I just rode
horses, and Pony club actually
helped me understand every-
thing about horses and how they
move.” Newell’s mother, Wendi
Walker is the Club’s Treasurer.
Elise Barberra has been in
Pony Club for six years. “Riding
is not really a team sport,” she
says, “but Pony Club really pulls
everyone together as a team.”
Barberra’s mother, Stephanie is
Co-DC of the club with Naji.
Jaycee Blythe loves the way
Pony Club helps her to meet
people. She actually rides with
a Pony Club that doesn’t do as
much with Mounted Games.
Since she loves games in addition
to the other Pony Club activities,
she competes on the Perkiomen
Creek Pony Club in Mounted
(Continued on page 29)
Kaja Newell, a member of the championship Perkioment Creek Pony
Club that will be competing in the Prince Philip Cup at the Rolex
Kentucky Three Day Event in April, practices the Egg and Racquet
Race, one of the Pony Club mounted games.
Photo by Suzanne Bush
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