2018-08-24 / News

Rose Lake Pony Club Visits Little Barn for Demonstrations, Workshops

By Marley Tucker


Katherine Hyndman and horse Undri after demonstrating the correct way to hold a horse’s reins for onlookers during a short workshop on leading Thursday, August 16. Katherine Hyndman and horse Undri after demonstrating the correct way to hold a horse’s reins for onlookers during a short workshop on leading Thursday, August 16. Island children were all smiles as they were given lessons in horsemanship and safe practices - including nutrition, knot tying, and properly leading horses - by members of the Rose Lake Pony Club visiting from the Lansing area at the Little Barn Thursday, August 16.

The Rose Lake Pony Club is a part of the Great Lakes Pony Club, which encompasses 17 clubs in the greater Michigan, northern Indiana, and northern Ohio areas. It, in turn, belongs to the United States Pony Club, an organization that has existed for more than 50 years. Interested families start clubs. Each has a district commissioner, who is the leader. The commissioner is responsible for the paperwork and keeping the club compliant with national and regional policies. The Rose Lake Pony Club district commissioner is Holly Russell, who is a horse professional.


Alexandra Lo, 8, Sarah Lo, 11, and Jadyn Rickley, 7, enjoy crafts in the shade after horse handling lessons. Alexandra Lo, 8, Sarah Lo, 11, and Jadyn Rickley, 7, enjoy crafts in the shade after horse handling lessons. “What makes Pony Club so great for children and adults alike is the amount of dedication to it,” Ms. Russell said. “The skills learned here will follow kids for the rest of their lives and they are creating lasting bonds with the horses around them. Kids learn independence and how to keep horses healthy through proper technique and nutrition care, which you don’t necessarily find in other horse organizations that teach kids right off the bat. The ones that stick it out feel a lot of accomplishment.

“When competing, children aren’t allowed to have parental assistance, which is very hard for a lot of parents. It makes the kids think on their own and really take in what they’re learning,” she added. “The kids love it because their successes are their own and, with horses, it is hard work. At Pony club competitions, children are even graded on their horse handling skills, which is important for those who might not own their own horse or do not have a lot of riding skills.”


Ariana Straus led a demonstration on proper leading skills with horse Sweetie. At 15, she likes to compete in shows and highlight her horsemanship skills. Ariana Straus led a demonstration on proper leading skills with horse Sweetie. At 15, she likes to compete in shows and highlight her horsemanship skills. Members are graded through a certification system that allows individuals to progress at their own pace and doesn’t follow a timetable. Certification tests are an evaluation of the members’ progress through the levels and are made to encourage the member to show and tell what they know. Certifications are given to recognize milestones and encourage members to gain confidence and good safety habits while working with mounts, said Ms. Russell.


Rose Lake Pony Club District Commissioner Holly Russell, Melissa Straus, Teresa Hyndman, and Val Johnson organized the visit to Mackinac Island and helped with horse demonstrations and lessons for children at the Little Barn. Rose Lake Pony Club District Commissioner Holly Russell, Melissa Straus, Teresa Hyndman, and Val Johnson organized the visit to Mackinac Island and helped with horse demonstrations and lessons for children at the Little Barn. The Straus family, involved with Pony Club for many years, hosted members from the Lansing area who visited the Island for a short stay this past week.

“Gretchen Colman, director at the Little Barn, asked if the Pony Club wanted to come to Mackinac Island, and I thought that it was a great idea. Since I have a home here, we could house members,” said Melissa Straus.

Pony Club doesn’t group children by age, but by riding level and unmounted knowledge. Children also learn to teach their peers, which could be seen as Pony Club adults helped Island learn how to properly handle safety knots and lead horses.

“There are several knots that every person should know how to tie when working with horses,” Ms. Russell said. “There are times you need a knot that will never unravel, and other times you need a knot that can be untied fast and easily. Quick-release knots are really helpful when there is an emergency.”

While the kids practiced knotting rope, Ms. Russell taught proper leading skills together with Teresa Hyndman and Val Johnson. They practiced solo leading horses provided by the Straus family in the turnout pen at the Little Barn. After practice, the Pony Club went riding at Great Turtle Park and administered more lessons to Island children.

“Since I have to manage my own barn, being in the Pony Club helped me learn how to keep my spaces safe with first aid kits and properly handling horses,” Mrs. Straus said. She said her daughter, Ariana, “started riding in this program when she was tiny. We thought this was a great way to give back to the Little Barn,” she said.

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