Why Upper Level Preps?
By Bridget Bryson, Pony Club parent, Horse Master and former NCPR Regional Instruction Coordinator
I remember our first prep well. Relatively new to the Pony Club experience - at least in the US, and as a parent. My daughter, Stephanie, and I were both nervous. We had heard about upper level standards & fancy Pony Club horses. Stories had been told about tough trainers, arrogant A-wannabes and haughty horses. Clearly tales MUST have been exaggerated, our RIC had recommended the experience so highly, but still.....Nervously we arrived at the barn, exhausted after a 5-hour haul. Ashamed of our elderly trailer next to the smart looking rigs, not sure where to go, and wondering whether I was about to damage my daughter for life, I swallowed misgivings & summoned a smile to try to match Steph's excitement. She was bouncing. She was breathless. She was nervous, but bursting with elation to be there. My 13-year old D3 was ready to ride! Friendly voices hailed us, helpful hands lifted and carried. Sunny was stabled, Steph was with new friends. Our Upper Level experience began, and we never looked back.
Steph learned more that weekend than she had learned in years of lessons. No, I am not exaggerating. She had never had 4 lessons in 2 days before. Both she and horse had a never-before-accomplished relationship by the end of the weekend. We had a plan moving forward. We were hooked. Good instruction received had been validated. A highly trained eye had picked up on some new things, and had rephrased similar concepts in a way that now made sense. Some mysterious certification lingo had been clarified. I met Pony Club parents and a blast with this new community, Steph had new friends and renewed purpose. We were hooked.
As Steph improved her skills and attended every prep available, her little brother began his riding career. It seemed like a natural move to have him join us at a prep. Only a D2, if there was space, why not take him? We were going anyway! Preps changed his riding mentality. Preps took him from 'games boy' to contemplating learning more and increasing ability. He bonded with some NEs, not so much with others, but one principle stayed true. He, like his sister, improved with each and every experience.
Later on in my Pony Club life I took on volunteer roles (as we do), and the more I saw, the greater my belief in the strength of the prep. Every 'prepper' improved, even if they thought things weren't going the way they wanted. The NEs continually impressed me. After years in the horse world, I can honestly say that they are some of the best instructors that I have ever seen in action. Was it always the perfect experience for everyone? Of course not! Personalities clashed, instruction differed from, "What my instructor says," schedules would get out of whack, horses would behave badly......but everyone, from auditor to parent, and all the riders in-between, learned.
Later I, for my sins, became RIC, Regional Instructional Coordinator. My belief in the power of the upper level prep continued. The kids that prepped were always the more solid at certifications, their preparation was clear. Lower level riders always gained in their big picture view and overall goals. Although I always hoped to fill preps with the members who SHOULD be there, the C2s and above, it was always a joy to be able to let the D3s ride and experience some of the best instruction available.
I am in a different region now, and the story continues. Now, as a Horsemaster, I will experience preps as a rider. As a D3 HMX member, I will take full advantage of what Pony Club offers. As a former member, PC Mom, DC, VRS, RIC and volunteer, I know that Upper Level Preps are possibly the best opportunity available to our membership. I fully intend to take advantage of that as soon as I can!
Have a kid in PC? Pony Club member yourself? Don't miss out on this unsung hero of PC options. You won't regret it, give it a try. I promise you that you will be hooked too!
Debra Sue Water
Heartland Region / NCPR C and Up Camp
Fox Valley Saddle Association