The Pony Club Legacy

The Pony Club "idea” originated in Great Britain in 1928. The first official meeting was held in January 1930 with a recorded membership of 700. Today Pony Clubs are alive, well, and flourishing in 31 countries, with an estimated membership of more than 130,000. It is the leading junior equestrian organization in the world.

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., was founded as a nonprofit national youth horsemanship organization in February 1954 with 18 formerly unaffiliated clubs and an estimated 750 to 800 members. The USPC founders were enthusiastic foxhunters who recognized the need for an organization to provide sound instruction for all interested children, especially those who otherwise could not afford expensive lessons.

From showing a commitment to educational growth through grassroots outreach to inclusiveness regardless of race, gender, or ability, Pony Club has strengthened programming to meet the needs of today's equestrians. This has included raising the age of graduation from 21 to 25 for traditional youth members; offering Pony Club through an established riding center; expanding certifications; offering adult Horsemasters membership opportunities; and including land conservation in our educational standards. Year after year former members return to Pony Club as parents or volunteers. They know that the foundation of USPC today is no different than it was before:  horses and ponies, education, fun, and family.

Historical Timeline of USPC

1953 | A temporary Advisory Committee consisting of Mrs. Dean (Louise) Bedford, Chairman, Col. Howard C. Fair, and Alexander Mackay-Smith called a meeting of interested persons on November 8 to propose the establishment of the United States Pony Clubs. 22 people were present.

1954 | President: Mrs. Dean (Louise) Bedford
The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., was founded on February 24. Club registration fee $25.00. Pony Club member’s initiation fee .50 cents, annual dues .50 cents. One hundred and twelve individuals were supporting members of the USPC. By the end of 1954, there were 22 member clubs in 7 regions.

1955 | President: Howard C. Fair
Mrs. John (Alice) A. Reidy elected Assistant Secretary. 1st edition of The Pony Club Instructors’ Handbook published by the British Horse Society and The Pony Club. 1st National Rally held in Unionville, PA, with 2 "B” teams and 11 "C” teams.

"We are obviously trying to develop horses, horsemen, and riders. This is the aim of any interested equestrian group in this country today. It is a fundamental fact that there is no Government help, no Remount depot, to rely on and it is a job which no one but we ourselves can do. We must rely on our real sportsmen and Pony Club supporters. But this is only a part of our plan in The United States Pony Clubs. Our real job is to train our youngsters in the basic care and love of a pony or horse which they can train, ride, and enjoy to the fullest extent, and thereby appreciate everything that this wonderful relationship can mean to man and beast.”
- Howard C. Fair, President, 1955 – 1960

1956 | 1st Annual Report published, listing 38 clubs in 9 regions with a total membership of 1,953 (585 boys).

1957 | 52 clubs in 11 regions with 2,794 members (806 boys) – 4 As, 50 B's, and 464 sustaining members.

1958 | Pony Club program operating in 16 countries throughout the world.

1959 | HRH The Duke of Edinburgh wrote the forward for the 4th Annual Report.

1960 | From the Annual Report, Mrs. Dean Bedford: "I think that old Pony Club members who have been through the mill make the best stable management judges, as they insist on the Pony Club methods."

1961 | President: Sherman Haight
93 clubs in 26 states.

1962 | 5,000 youth members and 900 sustaining members. 10 National Committees were formed and the 1st quarterly Pony Club Newsletter was published.

1963 | Miss Anne Gaither elected Assistant Secretary. Project for the year was the development of mounted games by each Pony Club.

1964 | President: Howard J. Morris Jr.
Over 6,000 members (21.5% boys), with a rating break down of less than 1% A's, 6% B's, 27% C's, 41% D's, and 25% unrated.

"All of the organizational effort poured into Pony Club has its simple objective in a child and a pony. The whole structure exists only to teach the child to ride and care for his pony well. It is my belief that the organization does this with its goal clearly in mind, and I am constantly impressed with the vast number of generous horsemen who give their time and talents so freely to attain such a worthwhile objective.”
- Howard J. Morris, President, 1964 – 1966

1965 | International Pony Club Exchange visit held in the United States.

1966 | 150 clubs in 19 regions with 6,770 youth members and 1,177 sustaining members.

1967 | President: Harry I. Nicholas Jr., MFH
6 Pony Club members participated in the Inter-Pacific Exchange Rally held in Auckland, New Zealand.

"Our As, Bs, and good riding Cs are a very small proportion of the membership. They are our backbone. But let's ponder, plan and produce more good and happy kids at the D and early C level. It is through small clinics, camps and games that our Pony Clubs make not only horsemen, but fun-loving sportsmen and good citizens.”
- Harry I. Nicholas Jr. MFH, President, 1967 – 1969

1968 | 116 Graduate A's. National Rally hosted 99 competitors (24 boys) from 39 clubs in 12 different regions with 9 A's and 90 B's competing. 1969 6 Pony Club members participated in the Inter-Pacific Exchange Rally held in Canada.

1970 | President: Rufus Wesson
An Ad-Hoc committee was formed to study protective headgear.

1971 | Teams from the United States took part in the International Exchange to England.

1972 | Mrs. Charles H. Hardie elected Assistant Secretary. 20 regions with 8,611 members (1,355 boys) and 232 Graduate A's.

1973 | President: Col. Howard C. Fair
6 Pony Club members participated in the Inter-Pacific Exchange to Japan.

1974 | George L. Helwig appointed Executive Director of the USPC. National Office moved to West Chester, PA. First Games and Tetrathlon National Championships were held.

1975 | President: John L. Love
Alice Reidy retired as Secretary. Annual Meeting held for the first time in Philadelphia, PA.

1976 | USPC hosted the Inter-Pacific Exchange, with teams from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan. USPC Games team competed in England. 29 new Life Members joined USPC.

1977 | Over 300 clubs in 23 regions with 21 National Committees.

1978 | President: James K. Ligon (Graduate B)
USPC Tetrathlon and Polo teams competed in England.

"Responsibility is a natural result of having the complete care of a living creature, and learning to care for it properly. Consequences of acts are faithfully reflected by either a nicker of recognition, or by the pinning back of ears. The competitions offered develop sportsmanship and maturity. All of these characteristics, once established, carry over into other areas of life.”
James K. Ligon, President, 1978 – 1980

1979 | The British Pony Club celebrated its Golden Jubilee, while USPC celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

1980 | 334 clubs in 24 regions. Tetrathlon teams from England and Canada visited the United States.

1981 | President: John H. Fritz
The "Friends of the Pony Club” program initiated, and the completely revised edition of the Manual of Horsemanship published. Individual Pony Club reports appeared in The Chronicle of the Horse for the first time.

1982 | 632 Graduate As, 132 Graduate H/As. USPC sent a Tetrathlon team to compete in England.

1983 | President: Mrs. Arthur (Mary Lou) T. Anderson
First Pony Club Festival held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, and Championships included Dressage and Know-Down (Quiz) for the first time.

1984 | Over 500 Life Members in USPC. Championships held in Saxonburg, PA.

1985 | Susan Giddings appointed National Administrator. George Helwig retired as Executive Director after 11 years. Over 400 clubs. Rocky Mountain Region split, creating a 25th region, Intermountain.

1986 | President: Anson W. H. Taylor Jr.
National Office moved to a new location in West Chester, PA. Second Pony Club Festival held at the Kentucky Horse Park with teams from England and Canada competing in the International Games Competition. USPC Boys’ and Girls’ Tetrathlon Teams visited England.

1987 | President: James K. Ligon
Margaret Smith joined the National Office Staff as Assistant to the National Administrator and National Testing Coordinator. Eastern New England and Northwest Regions divided to form 3 new regions, bringing the total number of regions to 28.

1988 | 1st annual presentation of the Founders Awards to Alice Sherburne Reidy and W. Sidney Felton, Esq. Mrs. Reidy, a USPC founder, subsequently died on May 13, 1988, at the age of 83. The Uniform Officiation Rules completed.

1989 | 461 clubs in 28 regions with 8,831 members (1,134 boys). USPC celebrated 35th Anniversary. Third triennial Festival held at Kentucky Horse Park. USPC was instrumental in the development of guidelines for protective headgear.

1990 | President: Mr. Robert J. Kutil
Michael C. Kromer appointed Executive Director. 10,440 members. First year of the Annual Fund Campaign. ASTM/SEI approved helmets required to be worn by members at all times when mounted. Championships held in the East and West. Two USPC Tetrathlon teams participated in international competitions in England and Ireland. Mounted Games team represented USPC in England.

1991 | Number of donors to USPC’s second Annual Fund campaign more than doubled with over 500 contributors. Alumni Group formed to expand USPC’s volunteer base. Preparation began for a USPC Manual of Horsemanship as a handbook for USPC instruction programs and a reference for all American equestrians.

1992 | President: Melanie M. Heacock
4th Festival attracted a record-breaking 4,092 members, parents and volunteers. The Guide for District Commissioners presented at the Annual Meeting.

1993 | National Office moved to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. A new Strategic Plan developed focusing on what Pony Club must be and do in its 40th year and in the immediate future. National Instruction Council established. Pony Club featured in Sports Illustrated for Kids and SPUR Magazine.

1994 | USPC celebrated 40th Anniversary. Volunteer position of Regional Instruction Coordinator (RIC) created for each region. 1st volume of the USPC Manual of Horsemanship published. East and West Championships competition hosted 1,200 members. USPC teams participated in and won competitions at the International Games Exchange in Australia and the International Tetrathlon Exchange in England.

1995 | President: Cynthia S. Piper
Catherine M. Lerza appointed Executive Director. Second volume of the USPC Manual of Horsemanship published. Programs Administration Council (PAC) and Activities Council established. USPC’s display unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Information Center. Festival dampened by a tragic van accident claiming the lives of three and injuring several International Games participants. Frances Pitts Memorial Fund established in honor of Frances Pitts who died in the accident. USPC hosted the International Tetrathlon Exchange.

1996 | 605 clubs in 41 regions with 11,462 members.  Upper-Level USPC Manual of Horsemanship published. Task Force for the 21st Century developed a plan to build the financial strength of USPC. An offshoot of the task force was the establishment of the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving land for equestrian use. Eleven colleges/universities and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) offered scholarships for Pony Club members. Polocrosse became a USPC activity.

1997 | National activities included volunteer training, meetings for adults and youth, national rating tests, Championships in six disciplines, and three International Exchanges. three educational booklets published: Conformation, Movement, and Soundness; Bandaging Your Horse; and Longeing and Ground Training to complement the three volumes of the USPC Manual of Horsemanship. USPC Web site launched. Board approved of a new H rating to be implemented in 1998.

1998 | President: Emsie Parker
USPC National Office permanently located at the Kentucky Horse Park, partially due to a generous donation made by Tad and Cindy Piper. Groundbreaking took place at Festival. "H” rating is successful with 8 new H-level members.

1999 | Peggy Entrekin appointed Executive Director (Graduate A). 624 clubs in 42 regions with 13,390 members. First National Youth Congress and Alumni Academy of Achievement held at the Annual Meeting. Championships held in both Lexington, VA, and Parker, CO, attracting 964 competitors. USPC hosted an Inter-Pacific Exchange, with teams from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand.

2000 | Championships were held in Lexington, VA, with all seven disciplines represented. Middle California Region hosted successful Show Jumping Challenge. Boys’ and Girls’ Tetrathlon teams traveled to Ireland, Scotland and England to compete. In May, permanent headquarters of USPC opened at the Kentucky Horse Park. In October, the building was officially dedicated to Joan Birnie Hamill of Wayne, IL. Ad-Hoc Committee established by the Board of Governors to investigate the concept of an Adult Program in Pony Club.

2001 | President: Larry E. Byers
Festival in Lexington, KY, hosted almost 1,200 Championships competitors and 812 educational participants. Pony Club members traveled with the International Exchange programs to New Zealand and South Africa. USPC hosted an International Games Exchange in Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky with teams from Australia, England, and Canada. Horsemasters Program for Adult Volunteers was approved as a pilot program.

"I would be remiss if I didn't remind you all that we are Pony Club. We come together to share our common interests and to enjoy each other's company, to share in the accomplishments and to share in the disappointments. Please, let's be tolerant and respectful of each other. Let's not measure our success by equestrian accomplishments alone; let's measure our success by SMILES, friendships, happy and well cared for horses, and relationships that endure through the years.”
- Larry E. Byers, President, 2001 – 2003

2002 | International Games team traveled to Great Britain. USPC hosted International Quiz Exchange and International Tetrathlon Exchange with participants from Canada, Ireland, and Great Britain. USPC fielded a team for the USEF Pony Jumper Finals for the first time. USPC hosted the first International Foxhunting Exchange with members from Great Britain, Ireland, and Canada, hunting in Virginia and the Carolinas.

2003 | 640 clubs in 42 regions and 1 satellite region (Alaska), with 11,926 members. Championships West had 283 participants. Championships East had 774 participants. USPC members traveled to Ireland for an International Foxhunting Exchange.

2004 | President: Margo Leithead
640 clubs in 43 regions with 12,103 members. Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration held in Philadelphia, PA, with 1,098 registered participants, where USPC honored 223 Legends. Jubilee Festival had 1,205 competitors in Championships and 710 participants in educational programs. Both an International Games Exchange and the inaugural International Polocrosse Exchange were held at Festival. USPC sent teams to Great Britain for a Tetrathlon Exchange, to New Zealand for Dressage, and to Canada for Quiz. Board of Governors completed an extensive Strategic Planning process.

2005 | 11,502 members. Board of Governors approved a 5-year trial period for the USPC Riding Centers Program and a 3-year trial period for an age extension to 25. Championships held in Lexington, VA, with 829 competitors representing 30 regions competing in 7 disciplines.

2006 | 617 clubs in 43 regions with 11,488 members. At the Annual Meeting, Board of Governors approved Specialty Ratings in Dressage and Show Jumping at the C-3 through A levels. There were six active USPC Riding Centers in five states and 155 youth participating members through the centers. Championships West held at Rancho Murietta, CA, with 279 participants in six disciplines. Championships East held in Lexington, VA, with 659 participants in all seven disciplines. Members represented USPC in the following International Exchanges: Games in Great Britain, Polocrosse in Great Britain, Tetrathlon in the United States and Canada, and a Foxhunting Exchange in Virginia with participants from Great Britain, Canada and Ireland. Land Conservation component added to the D-1 through C-2 Standards of Proficiency.

2007 | President: Art Kramer
598 clubs in 43 regions with 11,590 members. First year of Specialty Ratings in Dressage and Show Jumping. ninth triennial Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park. Championships had 1,223 competitors, including members competing in the International Games Exchange, International Quiz Exchange, and the Inter-Pacific Exchange. Horsemasters Program for Adult Volunteers became a permanent program. USPC National Office implemented a new membership database.

"When a Pony Club member puts the USPC pin on his coat, one can look at that member and know a certain level of horsemanship can be expected…Certainly we want our members out there competing in Young Riders, and moving up the ranks of their chosen sport if that is what they choose to do. But always, a Pony Club member will put his or her mount first, because it is the right thing to do....We expect "Pony Club Behavior,” whether our members represent us internationally or when out in the world of equine sports or when they are in their home barns.”
- Arthur R. Kramer, President, 2007 – 2008

2008 | 593 clubs and 43 regions with 10,960 members, which included 554 members in 39 recognized USPC riding centers. Championships hosted 659 competitors in all 7 disciplines in Lexington, VA. USPC hosted 2 USEA Instructor Certification workshops at the Virginia Horse Center prior to the beginning of Championships. Newly established Eleanor Brennan Fund helped cover some of the costs of the workshops. Board of Governors revised the National, Region and Club By-laws at May meeting.

2009 | President: Thomas Adams
The National Youth Board was created by the Board of Governors. USPC reached a total of 10,271 members. 585 clubs, 55 centers, and 43 regions. Championships hosted 711 members in all seven disciplines in Lexington, VA. In August, the Northwest Region hosted the Pacific Coast Championships where 284 members participated in six disciplines in Washington State.

2010 | 567 clubs, 50 centers, with a total of 9,749 youth members. The Board of Governors approved the Riding Centers Program as a permanent program. Championships was held in three locations; East, West, and Midwest with all told 1,035 members participating. Executive Director, Peggy Entrekin left the employ of Pony Club. Karen Winn took over as Interim Executive Director. More than 60 Pony Club volunteers helped at the World Equestrian Games held at the KY Horse Park.

2011 | 548 clubs and 57 centers, with a total of 9,331 youth members. The Annual Meeting was held in Nashville, TN with 705 attendees. The 10th Anniversary Festival was held at the KY Horse Park, 1,656 members participated. Kevin Price was named CEO.

2012 | President: Daniel Murphy
Clubs and centers total 592 with 8,917 youth members. The Western Riding track pilot program began with over 60 clubs participating. Championships East was held in Lexington, VA with 555 competitors, while Championships West was held in Cle Elum, WA with 119 youth competitors and one Horsemasters competitor.

2013 | Clubs and centers total 584 with 8,605 youth members. An updated version of Manual of Horsemanship C-Level was released. The in-house bookstore was moved to an online only entity. Championships East was held in Lexington, VA with 583 competitors and Midwest, held in Kansas City, MO hosting 122 Competitors.

2014 | Clubs and centers total 583 with 9,278 members, youth and Horsemasters. The revised Manual of Horsemanship, H-B to A was released. Festival was held at the KY Horse Park in Lexington, KY with 1,732 members competing and participating in the education portion. Tom Adams was named Interim Executive Director while a search went on to find the next Pony Club leader. In December, Teresa Woods was named Executive Director of the National Office.

2015 | President: Nancy Pittman
Clubs and centers total 577 with 8,689 total members. Adult Horsemasters have been fully integrated into USPC. Championships East was held in Lexington, VA with 514 competitors and West, held in Washington hosting 193 competitors. The Mattingly Leadership Training Fund was established to support training for leadership of clubs and centers and the USPC began developing a new Financial Reporting System in effort to ease compliance tasks.

2016 | Clubs and centers total 575 with 8,575 total members. Professional Membership as a new option was approved by the Board of Governors. The Penrose NE Educational Fund was created to help pay for training for National Examiners. USPC Championships East was held for the first time at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC with 641 competitors. Championships Central was held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with 162 competitors.

2017 | Clubs and centers total 565 with 8,156 total members. The new Equine Management Curriculum was completed for the Professional Membership. There were 46 new Professional Members for the inaugural year. Festival was held at the Ky Horse Park with 1,054 participants. USPC received a grant from the Omaha Equestrian Foundation to attend the FEI World Cup Finals to provide education and facilitate demonstrations.

2018 | President: Ben Duke
Clubs and centers total 547 with 7,827 total members. There were 37 Professional members. Four USPC Instructors received Brennan Fund grants to help fund ICP training in California. USPC saw a 3% increase in Club giving, a 4% increase in Center giving and a 57% increase in Region giving to the Annual Fund. USPC Championships East returned to the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC. Championships West was held in Seattle, WA at the Donida Equestrian Center.

2019 | Clubs and centers total 539 with 7,661 total members. The total supporting membership (CM annual and life, Professional, members, Friends and Alumni categories) is 2,519 members.

2020 | Clubs and centers total 524 with 7,329 total members. The total supporting membership (CM annual and life, Professional, members, Friends and Alumni categories) is 2,503 members.

2021 | Clubs and centers total 513 with 7,974 total members plus 15 national members. The total supporting membership (life and annual Corporate Members, Professional Members, e-Members, Friends and Alumni categories) is 2,411. USPC Festival was held at the Kentucky Horse Park with 3,000 members, families, friends, volunteers and staff.

2022 | President: Jennifer Sweet
Clubs and centers total 493 with 7,629 total members plus 17 national members. The total supporting membership (life and annual Corporate Members, Professional Members, e-Members, Friends and Alumni categories) is 2,411.

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