Pony camp at Penndragon Equestrian Centre

Some of the children on pony camp!

Some of the children on pony camp!

A Pony Camp was held at Penndragon Equestrian Centre over the weekend of 20-22 November 2015, by kind permission of Sean and Belinda Irish. They were helped by Joan Ryan, Angela Tilney and Tammy Bradford throughout the weekend. It was extremely well supported. In total there were forty-two excited children at the pony camp with thirty-six sleeping over the whole weekend. Other children came as day pupils. The children’s ages ranged from five years to thirteen years.

A fun start

Naledi Lopang on Mr Bean

Naledi Lopang on Mr Bean

The children started arriving at 3.00pm on Friday afternoon complete with their tents, riding clothes, riding hats, swimming costumes, towels, sleeping bags, duvets, blankets and pillows. They pitched their tents on Friday afternoon and then fed and watered all the horses and ponies. They were taught how to make an organic fly spray for the horses by Tammy. They were then treated to a delicious supper cooked by Belinda with a choice of vegetarian or bacon macaroni cheese and salad. Some of the younger children were already in their tents and others were watching television afterwards and then it started to rain!!! Botswana has awaiting rainfall and it certainly fell on Friday night flooding the arenas. All the children had to abandon their tents and sleep in their sleeping bags in Sean and Belinda’s home. This, of course, was an unexpected adventure and the inevitable pillow fights and midnight feasts ensued with shrieks of delight from everyone. Belinda baked muffins at 5.30am and then prepared a full continental breakfast.

On Saturday morning Angela Tilney instructed the children in stable management. They were shown how to feed and water the horses and ponies and also to groom them correctly. She explained parts of the horses and parts of the tack for four and a half hours. Give that lady a medal! The children were put into teams and helped walk the ponies to the pony paddock. The children then spent a marvellous time swimming in the pool and playing on the trampoline before a lunch of yummy hot dogs.

In the afternoon the younger children rode on lead reins, other children practised their dressage tests and the older riders went for an out ride before building the obstacle course for Sunday’s competition. Everyone was treated to watching the 2012 Olympics and also the FEI You Tube dressage channels.  For supper Belinda and Sean cooked a barbeque of chicken and served it with salad and garlic bread. Sean made a bonfire and toasted marshmallows on it and all the children sang jolly songs before they slept in their tents.

Show day

Henry Collins on Whisper Pink

Henry Collins on Whisper Pink

On Sunday morning the big Botswana skies were clear and blue and there was no threat of any more rain for the morning. Everybody is always welcome at Penndragon Equestrian Centre and this camp was no exception with brothers, sisters, mums, dads, grannies and granddads all arriving and making their own friendly camps around the arenas. Sean started to produce irresistible bacon and eggs rolls at 8.00am and continued throughout the entire morning whilst hot and cold drinks were also being served. The desert flowers were in bloom after the first rains on Tuesday,  numerous stable dogs, (mostly recused from BSPCA) were delighted with so much activity and so many new people to meet, happy children were playing with each other and happy ponies and horses were being saddled up for the day, eagerly awaiting their turn to ride in the two beautifully prepared soft sand arenas.

The dressage started at 8.00am. The judge was Angela Tilney. Her Scribe was Claire Chapman and the scores were calculated and finalised by Deborah Fourie. The caller was Joan Ryan. Pony Rider Preliminary Tests 1, 2 and 3 (2010) were ridden.

An Obstacle Course followed in the main arena in which all the riders participated. The judges were Belinda Anslow and Deborah Fourie and their scribe was Claire Chapman. This competition was split into three sections; lead rein novice riders, unassisted novice riders, and advanced riders. The course was to enter the arena and greet the judges, then go through the start, (two barrels) then turn right and around three bending poles, then go straight forward and pick up a teddy bear from a drum, ride straight forward and deposit the teddy bear on another drum, turn right and go over four trotting poles, then go straight through two parallel poles on the ground, go around a jump stand, turn left and jump a small cross-pole jump, turn right and through the finish. The riders determined at what speed parts of this course were ridden, whether it was walk, trot or canter. Marks were awarded by the judges for each of the five sections of the course.

A special someone

Iwami (Lucky Girl) Nyadza is a young rider who is sponsored by Penndragon Equestrian Centre. She is ten years old and only started riding in January of this year. She has weekly lessons  with the instructor, Joan Ryan. This is a marvellous and rare opportunity for this young lady to learn to ride in such a consistently well organised and friendly environment.

Text and photography: Sarah Ward