Old North Bridge Pony Club: second generation has fun while learning horsemanship and community service

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The Pony Club’s float in Carlisle’s Old Home Day Parade last summer.
(Courtesy photo)

“I’ve been involved with the Old North Bridge Pony Club (ONBPC) since I was 8,” recalls Jessie Springer Svatek. “Pony Club was a huge part of my life, growing up in Carlisle, and was the foundation for setting me on the track for my profession and my life as it is today. I’m now a veterinarian and I mostly do horses. It is about helping kids develop respect for the ponies as well as themselves, their peers, their instructors, and the private and public land they ride on.

“It was such an important part of my growing up and I want to give it to my kids, Tori, age 6, and Eli, age 8. It is a lot of work caring for a pony, so doing it with other kids can make that work seem more fun.  And kids get to do fun things in Pony Club that they wouldn’t necessarily get to do on their own. My best friends today grew up with rewarding Pony Club experiences. When I was growing up, we were mostly girls but today we are now 50% boys and that fact keeps and attracts other boys.”

History of Old North Bridge Pony Club

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At the Halloween Horse Show, 1993, Joelle Hague and Jessie Springer were dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy. (Courtesy photo)

Pony Club is a nonprofit organization that aims to teach children to become good horsemen, not just good riders.  “My mom, Molly Springer, started this chapter of the U.S. Pony Club in 1985 along with Carol Bailey, Beth Morris, Betsy Smith, all of Carlisle, and Mary Pope of Concord, who comprised the original board.” The ONBPC chapter, which is part of the Central New England Region, has been led by many Carlisle residents over the years and has included children from Carlisle, Lincoln, Acton, Billerica, Bedford, Boxboro, Concord, Chelmsford, Wayland and Weston.

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Enjoying a Pony Club trail ride last
November are Eli Svatek, Phoebe
Solar, Matt Solar, Tori Svatek, Bowen
and McClaine Martin.
(Courtesy photo)

Meetings today are typically held at Carlisle’s Foss Farm, Lincoln’s Browning Field Riding Ring and at Jessie’s home in Carlisle. Meetings are “hands-on” and include a mounted lesson as well as an unmounted horsemanship program.

Part of an international organization

Pony Club is an international organization that promotes organizational skills, character development, leadership, confidence and a sense of community in youth through a program that teaches the care of horses and ponies, riding and mounted sports. It turns horseback riding, typically an individual endeavor, into a team sport. Team competitions, known as rallies, are organized between the clubs in various regions to give the pony clubbers a chance to participate in various aspects of equine competition, both as individuals and as part of a team. Events include dressage, show jumping, gymkhana and tetrathalon.

There is a rating system to help the children grow their skill levels and be partnered with others of similar ability in lessons and in rallies. Members begin at the D level and can move up to levels C, B and A as their riding and horsemanship skills develop. They learn safety, nutrition, basic veterinary care, respecting public and private land, and how to be good citizens and to give back to the community. ONBPC has organized many fundraisers in the past to help maintain Foss Farm here in Carlisle and the Browning Field Riding Ring in Lincoln, as well as contributing to Dana-Farber and the MSPCA.

Pony Club growth on the rise as the second generation takes the reins

The number of Carlisle backyard ponies has fallen off since Jessie’s childhood, and likewise membership in Pony Club, but Jessie and her peers are on a mission to strengthen the club. They find many children are interested in horses and riding but do not have access to a pony, which is necessary for work at the meetings. Jessie and the current board are trying to be creative with pony sharing to allow more children access to the Pony Club experience.

Jessie is on the board of the ONBPC and is becoming District Commissioner.  The other board members also grew up riding and share Jessie’s passion. Board member Matt Solar grew up in Lincoln, and lives in Concord with his family. Matt’s and Jessie’s mothers ran Pony Club together for many years. Board member Sarah Grallert is also from Carlisle, and Board member Bowen Martin is from Lincoln. The ONBPC chapter has had many of its pony clubbers grow up to come back again to volunteer in teaching and running fundraisers for Pony Club.

Board Member Sarah Grallert said “I know how rewarding a relationship with a horse can be, and seeing the joy it brings my daughter Flora is amazing. Pony Club is challenging and rewarding but always fulfilling. What is special about riding with Jessie and Pony Club is that it is such a supportive, fun and relaxed environment —a setting which can be hard to find for our kids these days. We are thrilled to be part of the ONBPC and feel so lucky to have found Jessie and to benefit from her leadership in Pony Club.”

Public invited to the Halloween Horse Show, October 29 at Foss Farm

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The lead line class at the Halloween Horse Show, 1992. From left to right, Aaron Constable, Jessie Springer, Adam Lewis, Sarah Stuart, Jason Metivier and Joelle Hague.
(Courtesy photo)

Join the ONBPC this Sunday at 9 a.m. for their Halloween Horse Show fundraising event to benefit Foss Farm and the ONBPC. Many local barns have been invited to participate. It promises to be great fun, with costumes and even a Horseless Division for those without a horse who want to participate. There will be a food booth and it will probably be yet another beautiful fall day. Come in costume and join the fun!

For more details and future events, check out the local chapter website:  onbpc.org and take a look at the national organization’s website: uspc.org

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Work day at Foss Farm, April 2017. (Courtesy photo)

U.S Pony Club Core Values:

Horsemanship with respect to healthcare, nutrition, stable management, handling and riding a mount safely, correctly and with confidence.

Organized teamwork including cooperation, communication, responsibility, leadership, mentoring, teaching and fostering a supportive yet competitive environment.

Respect for the horse and self through horsemanship; for land through land conservation; and for others through service and teamwork.

Service by providing an opportunity for members, parents, and others to support the Pony Club program locally, regionally and nationally through volunteerism.

Education at an individual pace to achieve personal goals and expand knowledge through others.

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Old North Bridge Pony Club: second generation has fun while learning horsemanship and community service