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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Pony club 'dream team' pulls off last-minute venue change

ABOVE: Isla Mealmaker, of Mandurang South Pony Club. Picture: FELICITY CLAY

THE Midland Zone of Pony Club Victoria covers a vast area and is home to 17 pony clubs ranging from Horsham across to Charlton, down to Harcourt and through to Beaufort, with many clubs in between.

Faced with the need to change the venue for a major event at short notice, zone representative Sue Foley said all it took was “a village”.

“Sometimes all it takes is a small group of like-minded, determined and wonderful people to work together to achieve the seemingly impossible,” she said.

The event they had to move was the Midland Zone Open Horse Trials and Club Team Challenge.

It was to be held at Maryborough on November 20 but with the pony club grounds “about a foot” underwater the week before, it was relocated to the Mandurang South Pony Club grounds near Bendigo.

“Despite having just five days to get the grounds prepared, the dream team of Dylan Mealmaker, Nicki Chalmers, Melanie Burke, Sharon O’ Neill, Peggy Mills, Jill Moran Marshall, Nicky Dowler, Erin Downie, Paris Room, Kelly Edwards, Sandra and Travis Diss, Julie Miller Gould and Julie Robins proved that with the united vision of working together to make it happen for our members the 2022 qualifiers would go ahead,” Sue said.

Organisers had a restless night prior to the event, thinking they would have to turn it into a combined training after the rain that fell before midnight, but even with a windy, cold day, everything ran efficiently.

Even if the people scoring at fences were cold, the riders were happy and there were many smiling faces who enjoyed a great day.

Possibly one of the happiest was tiny Isla Mealmaker, of Mandurang South Pony Club, who has been waiting and waiting to compete in her first horse trials since she turned eight this year. This was the big day Isla and her pony (called Poni) placed second and fourth in her divisions.

Like many rural zones, events are run for both pony club and open riders to give adult competitors a chance to ride in competition without having to travel down to the big competitions closer to the city.

ABOVE: Kian Blanchard of Charlton Pony Club. Picture: FELICITY CLAY

Classes were run from grade two to six.

The winners in grade two were Ingrid Gould, riding Treasured Image from Bealiba Pony Club, and in the open section, the winner was Tess Ladner on Denny Muster.

Grade three sashes were won by Prudence Robinson on Kenlock Super Davina from Mandurang South Pony Club and Iris Sudholz riding Pixie in the open.

Grade four is always popular, with youngsters becoming more confident across country, and was well filled at this event.

Matilda Burke on Astbury Gold Class scored for Mandurang South Pony Club in the pony club section and Rebecca Nicholls rode Royal Token to win the open section.

Grade five and six are always the most entertaining for spectators, and most nerve-wracking for the parents (and grandparents) of the riders. The grade five pony club winner was Olive Ferguson on Tawaris Xanadu from Bealiba Pony Club and the open winner was Shayla Lister riding Max.

Maggie Walmsley from Maldon Pony Club won grade six on Prince. (How many of us “old timers” can remember a sturdy pony of our childhood named “Prince” that was invariably kind talented and generous?) The open grade six went to Luka Cameron on Friso Van Act from Horsham Pony Club.

The event also held combined training classes and hosted the Midland Zone Team Challenge, which was won by the Mandurang Monsters Teams from the Bealiba Brumbies with the Harcourt Lions third.

ABOVE: Open rider Tess Ladner. Picture: FELICITY CLAY
ABOVE: Ashley Martyr of Woodlands Pony Club. Picture: FELICITY CLAY

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