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The 2018 Pony Club Conference

The 2018 Pony Club Conference, held on 05 March at Edgbaston Stadium, welcomed The Pony Club’s Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, alongside around 500 delegates from Branches and Centres all over the UK, who battled with the ‘Beast from the East’ to get there.

Delegates gathered to celebrate everything that’s great about The Pony Club as well as look to the future throughout this jam-packed day, where the theme of ‘working together to grow’ was a firm focal point.

The Conference was opened by compère Aly Vance who is a sports presenter and journalist, as well as a former Monmouthshire Hunt Pony Club Member who saw success in Eventing and Tetrathlon. 

Aly introduced Pony Club Chief Executive Rhian Gibson who spoke about her vision for a strong and stable future and how everyone can work together to gain growth in the three priority areas; membership, people and business.

The first speaker to take to the stage was Claire Lomas, the inspirational fundraiser who has reinvented her life after being paralysed from the chest down by a freak riding accident. Claire talked emotively about the obstacles she has overcome, and why she continues to challenge herself to reach new goals and raise money for Spinal Research.

Delegates then enjoyed a fascinating talk by Veterinary Medicine student William Bambra, who spoke about the findings of his research to assess the equine influenza vaccination rate. With the recent inoculation rule changes, this topical talk identified areas of the UK where fewer than average numbers of horses were vaccinated, and he also explained how the disease is spread, the risks it poses to equines and how horse owners can prevent exposure.

The 2017 International Quiz Exchange team of Helena Bissex, Georgia Stanton, Lucy Stammers and Victoria Hargreaves gave a light hearted account of their trip of a lifetime to Canada, before the ‘Inspire’ session where guest speakers from The Pony Club community shared their know-how.

The session began with Pony Club Member and Vlogger Esme Higgs who talked about the videos she creates about her Pony Club activities, and how she used social media to build up followers of her YouTube channel ‘This Esme’ to nearly 75,000. Other contributors included Natalie O’Rouke, Proprietor of Park Lane Stables in Teddington, Alison Hargreaves, DC of the Old Berkshire Hunt Branch, and Coach Sarah Macdonald.

The morning session closed with thoughts from HRH The Princess Royal, who spoke about the value of ponies, Volunteers and The Pony Club.

Delegates were then divided into groups to discuss subjects around growth, and after lunch the afternoon sessions went on to provide great entertainment; beginning with stand up comedian and Pony Club dad Rory Bremner who gave the audience plenty to laugh about; the AH Test will never be the same again!

The findings of the breakout sessions were then discussed before the final guest speaker, Richard Waygood MBE, spoke about his illustrious career, and how his experience as GBR Team Performance Manager could be replicated by The Pony Club.

Pony Club Chairman, Mary Tuckett, thanked everyone for attending and summarised the day, leaving everyone going home inspired, renewed and brimming with fresh ideas to steer The Pony Club towards a strong future.

Watch the highlights here:

Video / Image Credits: Keiron Tovell

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