Give a child a pony and lifelong memories are formed. Put that child and pony into a pony club and a career may be forged.
Jo Taylor, commissioner for Manawatu Pony Club, says the national organisation is a great breeding ground for world-class equestrians, but if you are just doing it for fun, then that's fine too.
And it was in Manawatu where it all started.
The New Zealand Pony Clubs Association was formed in 1944 after Dorothy Campbell read about the British Horse Society and Pony Club.
Many children in New Zealand were growing up on farms and most had ponies and often rode them to get to school. But there was often no instruction available to teach them to ride safely or to care for their ponies properly. So Ms Campbell wrote to the secretary of the British club and held a fundraising gymkhana in Hawke's Bay, which resulted in the Heretaunga Pony Club.
After several more clubs were started up, a meeting was called in Palmerston North on October 15, 1946, and the New Zealand Pony Club Association was formed.
There are six branches in the Manawatu district and four are placed next to a river, ideal for rides and water events.
"We go from the Rangitikei River to the ranges and, yes, it's mainly girls in the club."
Mrs Taylor says people who think it is very formal and posh are in for a surprise. She says there are no airs and graces and it's all about having fun and enjoying the horses and learning as much as you want.
"All you have to do is turn up and you can join."
The youngest member of the Manawatu Pony Cub is 3 and, while the age restriction comes in at 24, Mrs Taylor says most leave before they are 21.
They go off to uni, but a good few of them come back to help out.
She says riders cover all levels and disciplines and, unlike a riding school, pony club has lots of games.
There are some children who don't own their own pony but most do and she says it's an ideal place for parents who know little about horses to learn a great deal and get lots of advice. "It's a good community network."
Joining fees are between $100 and $120 a year and there are few additional costs apart from the odd gymkhana fee of $10.
"It's a very reasonably priced way of being involved with horses as equestrian sports can be very expensive."
The grounding is ideal for beginners and those who choose to go on to specialise in one or more disciplines often do very well.
"All the top riders have been through Pony Club and it's hard to get into eventing without it."
The Manawatu Pony Club runs the showhunter championships in Foxton each year and Mrs Taylor says it's a great event that is getting bigger.
"We are very proud to hold that event."
Putting aside the stereotypes of expensive horses, private schools and lavish horse trailers, pony club is shrieks of fun, pats on the back and strong bonds between rider and mount.
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