History of Pony Club Australia

The Pony Club (as it is called in the United Kingdom) was founded in England in 1929. They began primarily as junior groups of the numerous Hunt Clubs, to encourage young people to learn to ride and enjoy all kinds of sport connected with horses and riding. The concept grew quite quickly, to 59 branches within a year. The first overseas club was in Gibraltar. Pony Club is represented in no less than 29 countries with a worldwide membership exceeding 110,000 making it the larges association of young riders in the world.

The first recorded Pony Club was formed in Australia in Ingleburn, New South Wales in 1938 by Mrs Marjory Hirst and her family

Marjory Hirst from Ingleburn and 'Brightstar', her Hackney stallion. The Hirst family continue to be involved with horses and their history is detailed on their website

The Pony Club Association NSW was established in 1952. Clubs attending were: Boggabri, Coolah, Glen Innes, Inverell, Merriwa, Scone, Singleton, Tamworth, Walcha, and Sydney. 

Pony Clubs began in Victoria with the Mountain District Horse and Pony Club in Croydon, in 1944. It grew out of an article in the English magazine ‘Riding’ which was popular in Australia.

“One day about June, 1944, Miss Margaret Douglas was out driving a horse and jinker from Croydon to Ferntree Gully having picked up the latest issue of the English magazine, Riding, and while looking through it saw a letter from Mrs. Edward Hirst of Ingleburn Pony Club in N.S.W. Miss Douglas thought what a wonderful idea it would be to try and establish a similar Pony Club in Victoria, to try and give helpful tuition and organized activity to all riders who had sprung up during the petrol rationing war years.                           

So Miss Douglas wrote a letter to Mrs. Hirst asking for more details of running a club. Mrs. Hirst’s letter dated 1/8/1944, told how the club was based on the English Pony Clubs, but how in Australia as many adults as well as children, were interested. “Horse and Pony Club” was used in the title.

Their aim was “Education and Entertainment” with Horsemastership being as important as Horsemanship, and that no matter how broken down the horse, how bad the saddler or rider, we welcome them all.”

It was upon this six page letter........that the Mountain District Horse Pony Club was formed (Tozer, 1974).


Membership grew to 60 riding members within a year, and other Victorian clubs soon followed.

The fifties were a busy time for equestrians. The Australian Horse Society was begun in1950 and Equestrian Federation of Australia (EFA now Equestrian Australia) in 1951. Many early Pony Clubs affiliated with the British Horse Society Pony Club (BHSPC) and used their resources – syllabus, instruction notes, even the badges and ties.

The first meeting of the Victorian Pony Club Association was called by Mr. A.V. Pope who was an ex-president of the British Horse Society on January 13 1954. The name was soon changed to the Pony Club Association of Victoria. The aims of PCAV was to help the existing clubs provide instruction and organized activities,  as well as facilitating links between Victorian clubs and the wider world.

Rider development was a very high priority from the start as was the use of new technology and openness to new ideas.

More to come about the beginnings of Pony Club in the other States.


Australian Pony Club Council

The first meeting of a potential national body was held on September 1st 1961, during the second Inter Pacific Rally, (but the first held in Australia - in Melbourne); this easing the way for representatives from all states to attend. This meeting sounded out the possible formation of a federal association, and while it was decided at the time it was not viable directly, it should happen fairly soon.

Minutes PCAV 3rd October 1961

Federal Council

The Chairman (PCAV) also reported that a Federal Council had been formed during the International meeting. This Council will endeavor to bring uniformity to the Pony Club movement throughout Australia. This council involves the Association in an intial subscription of £2._._.

Initially an Advisory and Liaison Committee was set up, in Sept 1961 with Erik Kolle (from PCAV) as chairman; with elected representatives from each state. Tasmania’s clubs were at this stage part of PCAV. The ACT, Northern Territory and New Guinea were invited to be members.


The development of the knowledge and ability of riders was a concern of the P.C.A.V. from its foundation (P.C.A.V. Minutes, January 12th 1954). The emphasis however, has always been — in order of importance-

The safety of the rider

The comfort of the horse

The enjoyment of the rider

The progress of the rider

Rallies, the regular meetings of the Clubs, are of two types; instructional and recreational.

At Instructional Rallies of Clubs, usually held monthly, different aspects of horsemastership and horsemanship are developed in groups which relate generally to the chronological age of the rider. Although note is also taken of the rider’s ability and stage of development, the Pony Club is seen “first and foremost as a Youth Movement” and “enjoyment of the rider of more importance than “progress”, (“B” Standard Notes P.C.A.V., no date).

'If we have helped them to develop the patience, application, understanding, tolerance, thoughtfulness and concentration which are all essential qualities in the successful trainer of the horse, they are well on their way to be good citizens and we are doing our job as Youth Leaders.'

'Each one of the pupils needs to be recognised and treated as an individual. He needs recognition, appreciation and encouragement. Given these he will do his very best in his riding and in all things. With this we are content.' (“B” Standard Notes P.C.A.V., no date).

Miss Kay emphasises this point by saying,

I’d like to feel that the idea of Pony Club is to make each child happier on his pony, happier in himself and so everything is better because of this... he is a better man all round. (Irving, 1977).

Instructor's Courses

Prior to the formation of the P.C.A.V. the individual Clubs had been following the syllabus of instruction prescribed by the Pony Club of England (Luckock, no date), but there appears to have been no formal attempt to encourage people to develop their abilities as instructors. It was not long after the establishment of the P.C.A.V. that Colonel Pope took up this challenge by announcing a proposed Instructors Course to be held during the winter months, at the Showgrounds or at Frankston (P.C.A.V. Minutes, March 31st 1954). As it turned out, it was held at “Carbrook” in Frankston, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Derry Francis, (Luckock). Colonel Pope anticipated that as a result of this and any future courses, certain people would be passed as Instructors suitable to conduct tests (P.C.A.V. Minutes, March 31st 1954). This course must surely have been a success because at the next Committee Meeting in August 1954 Mrs. Nash moved that a further Instructors Course be arranged to be held in early February during a weekend (P.C.A.V. Minutes, August 25th 1954). There is no report in the Minutes of this Course but it had been extended to being a three-day Course (P.C.A.V. Minutes November 17th 1954).

In August 1954, a list of Instructors approved by Colonel Pope to conduct “C” tests was drawn up.

The need was soon felt for the formalization of Instructors Courses and in December 1956, the P.C.A.V. approached Miss Kay Irving of the Waverly Riding School to draw up a syllabus for such Courses (P.C.A.V. Minutes, December 12th 1954

Miss Kay’s services to the Pony Club movement and her contributions in raising the standard of instruction have been consistent and unstinting. This was recognised in April 1958 when she was invited to be a Life Member of the P.C.A.V. (Luckock, 1975). Miss Kay, as she is affectionately known by Pony Clubbers all over the State, was at about this time, appointed Chief Instructor for Victoria. In the 1967 New Year Honours List Miss Kay was awarded an M.B.E. for her services to Youth through the Pony Club

More about Miss Kay Irving

In March 1962, two further important developments took place. Mr. Franz Mairinger, the Chief Instructor of the E.F.A. made it clear that his services were available to the P.C.A.V. and this offer was gratefully accepted. Mr. Mairinger, coach of Australia’s Olympic equestrian teams since 1956, has given valued service over the intervening years annually conducts Instructor’s Schools for the P.C.A.V.

Instructor’s Publications

To further help in raising the standard of instruction Miss Kay compiled a book of “Instructor’s Notes.” (P.C.A.V. Minutes, September 19th 1963) It was decided that since these notes were mainly based on Miss Kay’s years of experience, joint copyright should be taken out so that any future alterations would be with Miss Kay’s approval (Luckock, 1975). In 1966 the notes were printed in hard cover binding under the title of The Australian Pony Club Council Manual of Instruction to “C” Certificate Standard

On publication, copies of the manual were forwarded to the other State Associations and to the British Horse Society Pony Club. Subsequently, a booklet of “B” Standard Notes (no date) was published along with another booklet The Australian Pony Club Syllabus of Instruction for Efficiency.

International Competitions and Tours

Australia’s first team to the US on an outing to the MGM studios

Early in January 1961 the first overseas trip for Pony Clubbers occurred when members of N.S.W. and Victoria were invited to compete at Pebble Beach, California. Ponies and gear were provided by the host country and Miss Kay and the P.C.A.V. Secretary, Mrs. Burgess, and the P.C.A.V. President, Mr. Kolle, chaperoned the team of four riders from Victoria and two from N.S.W. Later in that same year teams from U.S.A., Canada and New Zealand and teams from all the other States of Australia, except Queensland, responded to a P.C.A.V. invitation to an International meeting in Melbourne. During this meeting an Inter-Pacific Committee was formed to arrange future exchanges of riders. In 1963, an Inter-Pacific meeting was conducted in Toronto and since then, rallies have been held biennially in U.S.A. 1965, New Zealand 1967, N.S.W. 1969, Canada 1971, Japan 1973, U.S.A. 1975, and New Zealand 1977. England was invited to compete in Japan in 1973, as a special guest of the host nation.

 1975 Team in the U.S.A.


As has been stated, the Pony Clubs in existence at the time of inauguration of the P.C.A.V. had been using the syllabus of instruction and the accompanying tests of the British Horse Society Pony Club. It was clear that some of these were not really applicable to Australian experience and conditions. The release of the Australian Manual in 1966 and the subsequent syllabus of Instruction formalized the alterations which had been made to the British syllabus and tests to suit the Australian situation.

Comparison of the British Horse Society Pony Club Guide to Standards with the Australian Pony Club Syllabus of Instruction, shows for example, that the emphasis placed on a knowledge of etiquette and practice in the hunting field as required for “A” and “B” under the British system, was deleted from the Australian requirements for “B” certificate and plays a very small part in the “A” certificate issued in Australia. This subject has however, been retained as one of the optional active riding experiences for the “K” Specialist test.

The most basic test now is the "E" certificate (brought in 2013 for the very young and beginner rider); the older tests, starting with "D" along with the others, were orignally based on the British Horse Society standards (Australian Pony Club Syllabus of Instruction). The progression in standards is through “K” and “B” to “A”. “K” and “H” specialist tests were devised by Miss Kay to cater for a wider interest range within the Pony Club. “K” certificate is designed for the “rider who likes action, but is not particularly interested in the finer points of riding the horse” (Syllabus of Instruction). “H” is a Horsemastership test designed for the “member who is especially interested in the training, preparation and care of the horse It is suited to the non-rider as well as the rider.” (Syllabus of Instruction). The Syllabus is updated every 5 or 6 years.