Sep 15, 2020

The Volunteers at Morven Park: Loudoun Hunt Pony Club

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
A competitor on course at the Morven Park Horse Trials, where the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club volunteers. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

For 39 years, the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club (LHPC) has held the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. Margaret Good, the District Commissioner (DC) of the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club, has helped organize the horse trials since day one. “We hosted our first horse trials in the Spring of 1981. This year is the first year we haven’t had one since the start,” said Good. The Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials typically takes place twice a year and offers Beginner Novice through Intermediate both in the spring and summer.

Many Pony Clubs across the country host horse trials like the LHPC. For example, the Seneca Valley Pony Club hosts the Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials in Poolesville, Maryland, the Fox River Valley Pony Club hosts the Fox River Valley Pony Club Horse Trials in Barrington, Illinois, and the Wastach Pony Club hosts the Golden Spike Horse Trials in Ogden, Utah. Good explained, “This is natural for Pony Clubs to [host horse trials] because Pony Club rallies follow a similar format, except they add horse management as part of the competition. We were hosting rallies before we hosted horse trials.”

LHPC members volunteering during the dressage phase of the 2019 Morven Park International Horse Trials. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

There are approximately 600 clubs or centers associated with the United States Pony Clubs (USPC) and LHPC is one of the oldest in the country. Founded in 1958, the LHPC has been running for 62 years. It’s based in Leesburg and currently has 32 members ranging in ages from 6 years old to 22 years old. Good explained, “Right now, there are about 18 in the D level, 13 in the C level, and one A level, which is the highest level.” Pony Club has a rating system where D level (D1, D2, D3) is the entry level, then members pass onto C level (C1, C2, C3), B level, H/A level, and A level.

As the organizer of LHPC Horse Trials, Good explained how volunteer positions depend on age and experience. “The very youngest Pony Club members run the dressage (6-12 years old), the in-between ages (12-15 years old) are ring crew for show jumping, and the older members do cross-country.”

“The youngest in our pony club right now is 6 years old," Good continued. "We put a mother in charge of the dressage runners and she drives them back and forth either by car or a golf cart. She’s responsible for them, but they still walk up and get the dressage test and take it to the scorers. For the older kids, we like to have them 15 or 16 years old before they jump judge for cross-country on their own. But, everybody does clean up, everybody helps flag - there are plenty of jobs. The teenagers love to flag the course because they are learning to drive, and they like to drive.”

Jumps on the cross-country courses at the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials are flagged and decorated ahead of time by the LHPC members. Photo courtesy of LHPC.

“Our members can compete one day at whatever level and then they volunteer the next day. It’s usually Saturday and Sunday. But, everybody gets a job, even the little ones. We just have one rule – if you can’t volunteer to help, you need to find a replacement for your job,” said Good.

Their spring and summer horse trials act as fundraisers for the LHPC and many people associated with the LHPC are loyal volunteers. “We have Pony Club graduates and parents of Pony Club graduates who are still involved and that still help to this day. I set it up so that there are committees that are responsible for the dressage, show jumping, and cross-country. We are not allowed to require our members to help because we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. But, what we stress is that this is our big fundraiser.”

“The money that we make from the horse trials is what pays for the children’s lessons. We hold a week-long camp in the summer and by [hosting the horse trials] it pays half of the camp fees for the children. [It also helps pay for the children’s] lessons and horse management lectures. They get riding lessons in the spring and fall, and horse management ground schools in the wintertime,” said Good.

Participants at the 2019 Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Summer Camp. Photo courtesy of LHPC.

LHPC recently started using www.eventingvolunteers.com, the official website for the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP). This website makes it easy to organize volunteers for the four horse trials the Pony Club helps put on each year. Good shared, “There are a lot of volunteers that volunteer at all four horse trials. We do three at Morven (the two Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials and the Morven Park Fall International Horse Trials), and our other horse trials has been at Oatlands.”

Many of the Pony Club members are excited to volunteer at the upcoming Morven Park Horse Trials on October 1-4, 2020. “Right now, [Loudoun Hunt Pony Club] is lining up people to volunteer for the October horse trials. Our crew of cross-county timers has volunteered for all four horse trials, year after year. I sent out an email and ask how many are available to volunteer, and this year, everyone was available,” Good said with a smile. “I think they are tired of being at home.”

The USEA would like to thank all the Pony Clubs who host events across the country.

About the United States Pony Clubs

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) started in 1954 to teach riding and the proper care of horses. It is based on The British Pony Club, which was created in 1929 as a junior branch of the Institute of the Horse. Since then, Pony Club has expanded to many countries around the world, with the main goal being to promote sportsmanship, stewardship, and leadership through horsemanship.

For more information, please visit the USPC website.

About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport, the unsung heroes, and the people who make it possible to keep the sport alive. In efforts to recognize the dedication, commitment, and hard work that volunteers put into eventing, USEA formed the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in 2015. In 2017, an online management portal was designed for volunteers, organizers, and volunteer coordinators at EventingVolunteers.com (available as an app for iOS and Android).

Volunteer incentives include national and area recognition, year-end awards with ribbons, cash prizes, and trophies, a top ten USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and a Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who tops the leaderboard by accumulating the most volunteer hours over the USEA competition year. Click here to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.

The USEA would like to thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Volunteer Incentive Program.

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