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Pony Club Members Compete for Spots at Central Ontario Regional Dressage Final

More than 50 young riders from 12 Pony Club branches - Arete de Chene, Brooklin, Durham, Kawartha, King, Maple, Oshawa, Rising Star, Simcoe, Springwater, Victoria and Waussnodae - have entered the second of three Central Ontario Regional qualifiers for the Regional Dressage Finals. This show takes place next Sunday, June 24, at Saddlewood Equestrian Centre north of Bethany, hosted by the Oshawa Pony Club. Selection for the Regional Finals will be based on scores achieved at this meet plus a qualifier held earlier in June, and a "last chance" qualifier to be held July 8. Sunday's show offers competition at 19 different levels, including classes for Pas de Deux and Drill Teams.

Dressage is a system for training horse and rider that has its roots in ancient Greece. Early levels emphasize walk, trot, and canter on a straight line and in circles as the horse learns to carry his weight and that of his rider with safety and elegance. Horses also learn to halt on command with the four feet placed squarely, and to stay immobile for four seconds. Higher levels require the horse to lengthen and shorten strides, to turn on very tight circles, to back up, and to go along the centre of the arena in an S-shaped line called a Serpentine.

In Dressage competitions, each horse/rider combination performs a set of required movements, progressively more difficult at each level, before a judge. The test will require the rider to do one thing, for example trot from one of the letters around the sides of the ring to another, then change to a canter exactly at that letter. Circles must be round, not square, and of a required size, usually 20 or 15 or 10 metres in diameter, and the rider must ride these "by eye." In addition to marking how accurately the horse and rider performed the test, the judge will give marks on the paces of the horse, the obedience of the horse, and the position and seat of the rider. Success in Dressage requires a lot of practice, discipline and sound training.

Dressage is an Olympic sport, in which Canada's best showing was a Team bronze medal in 1988. Three of the four members of that team were Pony Club graduates, and this show may very well feature members of the 2016 or 2020 Canadian Equestrian Team.

Pony Club is an international organization to promote riding and horsemanship skills among young people. Nearly all of Canada's international show jumpers got their starts in shows like this. Show jumping is the most familiar of Pony Club's activities to most spectators, but there is also competition in dressage, mounted games, rallies (which include dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping, plus stable management competition), tetrathlon (which includes swimming, shooting, cross-country riding, stadium jumping and cross-country running by the riders) as well as academic competition in quiz format.

Saddlewood Equestrian Centre is five kilometres north of Bethany on County Road 38, opposite Devil's Elbow. The show is expected to start at 8:30 a.m. Spectators are welcome without charge.

For more details e-mail Bob Inglis, Central Ontario Regional Communications Chair, or call him at 416-493-1223 (office) or 416-491-4230 (home).