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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Performance pony group builds momentum one show at a time

ABOVE: Amelia Morelli on a pint-sized Kez at the Mildura Horse Trials. Picture: CAPTUREDBYKENZ

IN THE 1950s through to the late ‘80s everyone had a great performance pony. They had their place on the travelling showjumpers trucks for the pony jumping classes and stepped out against big horses at many events.

They fell out of fashion when the Warmblood horses arrived, and even teenagers who would have been riding pony jumpers a few years prior moved on to bigger horses.

But the wheel has turned. With many people finding that they are unable or unwilling to have to deal with a large and powerful horse they are discovering what the people of earlier times knew, that ponies are very much more than just a child’s mount.

A handful of people from the Western District of Victoria have recognised the need for good ponies to be rewarded and have begun promoting ponies in all disciplines through a group called People on Ponies.

With strong support from some very generous studs and Western District businesses, and the Dressage and Jumping with the Stars coordinator Lizzie Shirmer, they held their first big event with the Performance Pony Competition offering $3000 in prize money as part of the “stars” program.

It again proved very popular in 2022 and it’s hoped now it can be a permanent feature of the very prestigious event.

People on Ponies is a small group but members work hard to promote their ideas.

ABOVE: Brookside Tinkerbella won a pony class at Dressage with the Stars. Picture: AMY SUE ALSTON

They realise they cannot afford to take on too much too quickly and hopefully in the future, if entries increase, the competition will fund itself, or gain solid sponsorship.

Mitch Fox, who with Brooke Hickey and Cindy Morrison judged the pony performance classes at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars, said the smaller performance horse had been popular in Australia as in other countries.

“Providing a competition platform for ponies has given riders the opportunity to actively compete without having to ride/own a 17hh fire-breathing performance horse,” he said.

“Judging these performance ponies I look for all the characteristics of any performance horse; correct conformation, movement and rideability.

“The introduction of the German riding pony into Australia and the rediscovery of the Welsh Cobs as a performance pony has created an Australian mini performance horse, the ponies sharing many characteristics of any top-level performance horse, making them versatile and suitable to be ridden by most people, adults or children.”

The People on Ponies group realises there is a need to support ponies on a much wider scale but know they will need backing for the great concept.

So far they are supporting the EV Spring Horse Trials at Werribee on September 9-11, Wimmera Equestrian Club on their dressage and showjumping weekend on November 19-20 at the Dimboola showgrounds and the Naracoorte Horse Trials next year.

The group would be keen to hear from studs and producers of good ponies interested in supporting the group. The group can be contacted through its Facebook page. Stories on The Regional’s website are free to read and always will be.

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