By Sarah Schrock

Photo courtesy of Keelyn Roman  Pony Club members, from left, Audrey and Camille Roman, Lilly and Nella Belcher.

Photo courtesy of Keelyn Roman

Pony Club members, from left, Audrey and Camille Roman, Lilly and Nella Belcher.

Monday afternoons at Bear Creek Equestrian Center welcome Methow Valley’s own chapter of the U.S. Pony Club.

New to the Methow Valley, the Pony Club is a co-ed, membership-based organization originally from the United Kingdom. Headed by Keelyn Roman, the local chapter teaches young riders and adult master riders the soft skills necessary to build confidence, composure and equine care and leadership through horsemanship. With the help of local sponsors and a generous donation form the Winthrop Kiwanis, the club started in the fall of 2015.

The Pony Club offers new riders a way to develop and master standardized skills through a national ranking system. Similar to how a Boy or Girl Scout would earn a badge through required skills and service, Pony Club members can work up through the ranks. With a lot of peer-to-peer teaching and guidance from older club members, young riders learn through observation, teamwork and direct instruction. The lead instructor is Brian Lee.

Hana Baker grew up in Pony Club, where she notes that her life was deeply enriched through her involvement. Her daughter Tova is the youngest Methow Valley member. The knowledge and skills earned through rankings are highly regarded in the equine world, making high-ranking members competitive on college applications, resumes, or in job placements in veterinarian trades and professions.

One of the benefits of Pony Club is that riders begin to compete at very basic levels of showmanship from a young age. On April 16–17, Camille and Audrey Roman joined forces with a team from Pullman at the Inland Empire Region’s Horseless Stick Pony Rally in Deer Park, where they placed third. The girls were required to work as teams to complete stadium jumping, dressage, cross-country jumping, and horse management of their stick ponies.

While it might sound strange to compete without live horses, for new competitors it teaches them the art of the competition, which relies heavily on teamwork and memorizing the patterns necessary in mounted shows, without help from the parents.

The Methow Valley Pony Club meets Monday afternoons at 4 p.m. at Bear Creek Equestrian Center. Members must have their own horse or pony or access to one, though sharing is possible at a young age. For more information, contact Keelyn Roman at 996-4109.