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Riding With Royalty

Five Central Ontario Pony Club Region members have been selected to help Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, open this year's Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Along with other Pony Club members from the Western Ontario and Saint Lawrence-Ottawa Valley Regions, they will provide a mounted escort for the royal couple's landau as it enters the Ricoh Coliseum for the opening ceremonies next Friday morning, November 6. The Central Ontario representatives are Laura Austin of the Kawartha Pony Club, Sarah Cowie of the King Pony Club, Emily Lindsay of the Rising Star Pony Club, Jennifer McKeen of the Oshawa Pony Club and Rebecca Simmons of the Durham Pony Club.

Ms Austin, 14, rides an Arabian horse named Narhan's Gift. This pair has been active in every show, test and clinic that they could all summer, including dressage, show jumping, cross-country and (outside of Pony Club) competitive long distance riding. With his previous rider, Narhan's Gift competed in dressage at the Canadian National Exhibition.

Ms Cowie, 21, rides a Quarterhorse named Majestic General (known around his barn as "Dexter"). Ms Cowie has been a member of the King Pony Club since it was founded in 2004. She and Majestic General have competed in Pony Club show jumping, dressage and rallies since that time, plus horse trials and numerous schooling shows outside of Pony Club. They have even performed a musical ride demonstration at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police musical ride. Majestic General is also used by the Governor General's Horse Guards and in lessons at Briarwood Farms.

Ms Lindsay, 15, rides a Welsh/Hackney pony named J.P. She has been riding since she was two years old, and has been a Pony Club member since she was six. Her Pony Club activities include show jumping, Prince Philip Games, rallies and dressage - including being part of a drill team at the national competition level. Aside from her Pony Club activities, she has also competed on the Trillium circuit, and in eventing at the Pre-Training level.

Ms McKeen, 17, rides a Welsh Cob named Millgate Braveheart. She was this year's Reserve Champion at the Training Level at the Canadian Pony Club National Dressage Championships. Ms McKeen and Braveheart have competed in dressage, show jumping and carriage driving. Aside from their Pony Club activities, Braveheart has appeared at the Royal Winter Fair for the past six years and regularly competes in Welsh shows with Ms McKeen, who has also shown at the Royal Winter Fair previously.

Ms Simmons, 20, rides an Anglo-Arabian horse named Poetry in Motion. She has been a member of Pony Club for nine years, and presently serves as one of two Active Member Representatives on the Central Ontario Regional Committee. She has competed in Prince Philip Mounted Games for eight years, including the national championship level, along with several very large Arabian shows.

Pony Club members are escorting their Royal Highnesses as part of the celebration of Pony Club's 75th Anniversary in Canada. Pony Club is an international organization to promote riding and horsemanship skills among young people. It is believed to be the largest equestrian organization world-wide, with more than 100,000 members. 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.

All these activities are offered every year, along with a strong educational program. A chance to ride with royalty does not come along quite so often.