River Valley Pony Club celebrates 25 years

Published 4:44 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

When it first started 25 years ago, the River Valley Pony Club (RVPC) was known as TLC Pony Club (for Tryon, Landrum and Columbus) and the members were all from the local area. Today, their roster of 42 members includes youngsters from as far away as Charlotte, Greenville and Asheville.

The club’s district commissioner (DC), Ivette Drumgool, said she believes there are two reasons for the far reaching influence of these riders. “There’s been a lot of smaller clubs in the area that have dissipated,” she said. “But the bigger reason is the kids and parents in this club who work so well together. They support each other, they love each other and they encourage each other constantly.”

According to ponyclub.org, the United States Pony Clubs (USPC), Inc. started in 1954 to teach riding and the proper care of horses. The main goal is to promote sportsmanship, stewardship and leadership through horsemanship. It is based on the British Pony Club, which is a junior branch of the Institute of the Horse and has expanded to many countries around the world.

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RVPC exemplifies these values of sportsmanship, leadership and stewardship. Drumgool said the members not only learn to improve their riding skills but participate in many leadership and service activities as well. Some of these include selling programs at the Blockhouse Chases to raise club funds and sponsoring hunter paces, winter camps and rallies.

A portion of the club’s hunter pace proceeds goes to support Therapeutic Riding of Tryon (TROT) and the club fosters a conservation and land stewardship program through Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE).

The members of RVPC participate in mounted and dismounted meetings, including teaching sessions and clinics, such as the recent clinic with Olympian Karen O’Conner. Drumgool said many local equine businesses have stepped up to help the club not only with financial support, but also by offering places for meetings and instruction.

She said among those who help the club with teaching and/or donations include Aaron Langely, DVM, from Appalachian Equine, Farm House Tack, the Tryon International Equestrian Center, Tryon Equine, The Hare and the Hound, Ivy Summerall, Margot Savage, The Tryon Hounds and the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club.

The club holds many of its dismounted meetings at the Hare and the Hound. Many of their riding events take place at FENCE and Still Creek Farm and Renovatio Farms have opened their facilities for mounted meetings. Renovatio Farms owners, Tracye Doubek and Eric Dierks, help with the teaching as well.

This year Tryon Hounds is helping the club members participate in the annual Live Oak Hounds USPC Foxhunting Challenge. The challenge is designed to encourage Pony Club members who do not regularly hunt to try the sport, and to reward members who hunt on a regular basis, to act as mentors to the less experienced pony clubbers. The challenge gives $10,000 in awards to the top Pony Clubs who regularly take the greatest number of active Pony Clubbers out hunting. Mr. and Mrs. C. Martin Wood III, Joint Masters of the Live Oak Hounds in Monticello, Fla., and past presidents of the MFHA support the challenge.

Though it has had many changes since it first started as TLC Pony Club, today’s RVPC continues to help its members succeed, not only with horses, but with life. The club currently has 10 members designated as “Horsemasters,” which are members who are over the age of 18 and still want to be a part of Pony Club. Over the years the club has won many competitions and awards including first and second prizes in regional quiz competitions.

As Drumgool begins her third year as DC she said in the years her daughter, Rebecca Drumgool, has been active, she’s seen the members accomplish quite a lot. Many of the members have gone on to have professional careers in the equine industry. She added that in addition to the leadership and horsemanship skills RVPC members gain, they also learn life skills.

“In the rallies, everyone was astonished. Those kids are dropped off at the barn with no parental supervision and they set up the stalls and tack room themselves,” she said. “They learn to work with people from all different walks of life, ages and skill levels. They also learn practical things such as how to change a tire on a horse trailer.” •

Catherine Hunter’s journalism career spans 20 years of writing for newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle of the Horse, The Western Horseman, the Tryon Daily Bulletin and Foothills Magazine. In 2000, Hunter received a South Carolina Press Association award for reporting in depth. She is the author of “Sacred Connections Horsemanship: Empowering Horse and Rider through Chakra Energy.” Email her at catherine.hunter@tryondailybulletin.com.