PONY Club games at Balmoral Show 2022, generously sponsored by UMEX and Red Mills, had that extra flurry of excitement that everyone has come to recognise after two years of cancellations and postponements.
The Balmoral Park flags were billowing in the wind as 20 beaming pony clubbers were cheered and welcomed into the manicured main arena. The four teams; Iveagh, North Down, East Antrim and a Mixed team, each made up of five members, put on a show that embodies the ethos of The Pony Club. They demonstrated horsemanship beyond their tender years, team spirit and determination, as they tackled each game and its various challenges.
Pony Club games epitomises skill on horseback, it takes courage from both pony and rider, but most of all it’s about fun.
The grandstand was full of enthusiastic supporters joyfully supporting their teams. The competition started with the bending race and from the outset it was clear that Iveagh were going to be the team to beat. Time and again it was Iveagh who had the white hatband, that signifies the fourth and final player in a game, out first. Every competitor knows that a certain amount of luck is required on the day and Iveagh had their fair share.
In the pyramid race that requires each rider to stack an ice-cream carton on an upturned barrel, the final Iveagh member raced to the line leaving behind a stack of four cartons that made the leaning tower of Pisa look straight.
The competition ended with the spectacular and crowd-pleasing balloon race. In this game, each rider gallops past a row of balloons bursting one on the way. Despite a mistake, the Iveagh team rode to glory ensuring their winning team position. The Mixed team came second, East Antrim took third place and North Down were fourth.
It wasn’t the Olympics, but you wouldn’t have known by the celebrations of the young Iveagh team. They completed their lap of honour with a gallop down the middle of the arena, while waving to their supporters. Many older equestrians say their Pony Club days were some of the best of their life, on days like these it’s easy to see why.
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