Gisborne Gallopers learn the ropes at a real competition | An Eventful Life

Gisborne Gallopers learn the ropes at a real competition

      Jessica and Camille Mason taking part in the training session at the Gisborne Pony Club Horse Trials


An Eventful Life filmed all competitors on cross country at

Gisborne Pony Club Horse Trials 2020 - order or view videos here


The recent Eventing Summit in England raised the question of how we should be introducing people, especially the young ones, to our sport. Maybe Gisborne Pony Club have one answer with their 'Gisborne Gallopers' out in force and learning the ropes alongside the more experienced competitors at the annual Gisborne Pony Club Horse Trials.

While the event was hosting the usual Pony Club and Open classes from Grades 2 to 6, a special class was being run for those who weren’t old enough or not quite ready to compete but were keen to get to ‘know the ropes’ (with some of them on lead ropes for dressage and pole work!)

Having run ‘topsy jumping’ at show jumping days, Gisborne Pony Club in Victoria, which won Australian Pony Club of the Year in 2017, extended the programme, which accepts any age rider and is tailored to suit the participants, to include a Freshman’s Activity session at the Horse Trials. As well as offering a 35cm class for Grade 6 competitors, the Freshman’s Activity is designed for those not yet graded but who want to participate in activities in a low-key, relaxed environment prior to trying an official competition (and everyone gets a ribbon!)

“It’s designed for children who want to be at the event and ‘do what the older kids are doing’ but are not yet ready to compete or simply don’t know what is involved” explains James Lang, Vice President of the Gisborne Pony Club, who has plenty of competition experience himself, being a 4* eventer and World Cup show jumper

“A Level 1 coach is with them the whole day and it takes in all facets of what a real competition would be like. They start with  experiencing all the dramas of turning up to their first horse trials – little things like where to park at a bustling packed competition car park, how is the horse going to behave in competition atmosphere (what happens when it goes from the quiet pony at home to competition atmosphere) and learn practicalities such as checking in at the office and picking up back numbers!”

“The dressage is similar to a protocol day where the rider can do their best but, if they have trouble remembering the test or have trouble knowing what to do, the judge/instructor steps in and coaches them through the test, getting real time feedback and help”

“In the show jumping, they are guided through the basics of what to do at a competition e.g.  how to walk the course, where is the warm-up and what do you do there, how to present to the judge and coached to not forget things like start and finish flags and what does the bell mean”

“The final phase is the cross country where the whole group is taken out to the cross country course and taken through the proceedings such as the Start Box and they can do as much or little as their comfort zone dictates; they can pop around a few jumps if they are confident or simply take it as a trail ride for the less confident”

It has been a very successful programme over the past few years and many new members have joined Gisborne Pony Club off the back of such a training opportunity during an actual competition day

We caught up with James, his sister Katrina McDougall, DC of the Gisborne Pony Club (both attended Gisborne Pony Club as children) and two of the families involved to find out more about the programme …….