Sat in our equine lectures so far, I’ve found myself dozing off a little. Not because of the morning-after headache following one of Glasgow’s vet school socials, or from utter boredom, but because I already knew a lot of it.

The Manual of Horsemanship (14th Edition)
The Manual of Horsemanship (14th Edition)

Yes, I’ve had my own horse and have been riding since I was 11, but I think the real culprit is The Pony Club. Years of Pony Club badges, efficiency tests and stable management sessions at camp had obviously made a lasting impression.

It’s only now, at university, that I’m beginning to appreciate just how much has sunk in over the years. From simple things like the difference between hay and haylage, to the less fundamental like laminitis and strangles – The Pony Club has taught me so much. The best part is that it rarely felt like an effort because of the friends I made and because I always had so much fun at the same time.

Not only did I pick up horsemanship knowledge, but also invaluable skills like being tested orally and having to think on your feet.

There are no written examinations in The Pony Club. The efficiency tests – which higher up can be regarded the same levels as the British Horse Society stages – require a riding and stable management element. In both, you are asked to demonstrate or explain things. Without realising it, by the time I got to the B Test, I was able to talk confidently to an examiner about all aspects of horse owning, riding or the industry in general.

Over the years, I’d also gotten roped into the team Stable Management competition, which took a similar format to the efficiency tests but required you to work as a team of three to carry out practical skills as well as discuss answers. Aside from teamwork, I’d picked up how to effectively bandage for different situations, comprehensive first aid and nutrition – all useful for a prospective vet.

I think The Pony Club has been invaluable and is a fantastic way for children of all ages to learn about the beautiful animals they ride, whether they end up having a career involving them or not. While sat in the vet school library the other day, I noticed a very old copy of The Pony Club’s Manual of Horsemanship on the shelves. I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

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