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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Counting the beat puts young riders on track to precision

ABOVE (front to back) Tracey Gorick, Ruby Oliver and Grace Lammens-Ellery at Cranbourne racecourse.

PONY club is often seen as providing young riders with games, shows and jumping, but a less publicised and very useful discipline is the Ride to Time event.

It is an activity that helps teach pony club riders the skills needed to ride at a given pace over a given distance.

This skill is important for cross country riding and can equip riders to be employed as track riders with Racing Victoria, which is sponsoring the 2022 Ride To Time zone qualifiers.

The kids say it’s fun!! Well of course it is. Who hasn’t enjoyed galloping up are hill or along a beach dreaming they were bushrangers or a jockey winning the Melbourne Cup?

Riders undertaking their C or K certificate can also use these days to work towards having the “ride at given pace” task achieved and signed off. Horses and ponies of all types can take part.

Last week four riders from the South Metro and West Gippsland pony club zones took to the Cranbourne racecourse for the Southern Metro zone qualifier, with Grace Lammens-Ellery from Pearcedale Pony Club riding Summerview Paige placed first.

Tracey Gorick from Bunyip and District Pony Club riding Callanish Lochbuie placed second, Cassidy Vingrys from Dandenong Ranges Horse and Pony Club and Macky Moonshine placed third and Ruby Oliver from Pearcedale Pony Club and Avaley placed fourth.

“It was Lochie’s first Ride to Time,” Tracey said. “He definitely had his big boy’s pants on, going out on the track by himself with very little worry, going through the tunnel and mostly behaving in the cross ties.

“He didn’t quite understand that when I got off his back he was to keep travelling but we worked it out in the end. For the first run we were 15 seconds too slow then our second we were only six seconds too slow. I can’t wait to see how he progresses over this year.”

Tracey said it was a great experience to ride at a racecourse.

“I find it really good to teach young horses to go forward and travel, which then helps in other disciplines,” she said.

“This is my fifth year doing Ride to Time and on my fourth horse as I like doing something different with them.”

ABOVE: Grace Lammens-Ellery was closest to the time.

Pony Club zones around Australia host these qualifying events at various racecourses overseen by a Ride to Time coach. A minimum of two qualifying days must be entered to be eligible for the championships.

At the end of the Victorian series, each zone will present a trophy rug to the Best Performed off-the-track maiden and open Horse. Some zones also have other sponsorships for the overall winners.

The times are graded to suit rider experience and have been set based on the cross-country times for each Pony Club Victoria grade, taking into account that there are no jumps.

Riders that are graded Horse Trials one and two ride in the open section, with the given speed set at 1000m in 109sec (550 m/m). Riders graded Horse Trials three, four or five ride in the maiden section, with their speed is set at 1000m in 120sec (500 m/m).

After a briefing from the coach, one rider at a time sets out to ride one practice run followed by a timed run. Riders are then told their time and then ride the competition time.

Horses are checked between runs to ensure they have recovered their breathing before setting off again. The rider that is closest to the required time is the winner.

To assist the rider in learning how to pace their horse, they wear beepers set to go off every second and by counting the number of beeps between markers, which are placed every 200 metres, the riders learn to feel their horse’s speed/pace and how to adjust it.

The winners of the zone maiden and open events will represent their zone at the Ride to Time State Championships at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne on September 3.

The championships are held on a race day so riders can enjoy the racing atmosphere.


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