Bedford Hunt Pony Club
The Bedford Hunt Pony Club (BHPC) is registered as a club of the United States Pony Club (USPC), and is assigned to the Old Dominion Region Pony Club (ODRPC).
BHPC is an active club that holds both mounted (with horses) and unmounted (without horses) meetings.
Although, Pony Club was originally started to teach youth, today Pony Club is not just for children! All ages are welcome. Youth membership is age 25 and younger. Adults interested in Pony Club may join to become Horsemasters.
History of Bedford Hunt Pony Club
Bedford County Hunt Pony Club
By Jennifer Fessler
The Bedford Hunt Pony Club began when two mothers, Bets Hooss and India Cann, thought they’d look into having a local organization that would be an outlet for the horse-crazy energy of their kids. They wanted their daughters to have a groups of peers that they could learn with and have fun at the same time. The moms also recognized that there was a great need for horse-crazy kids to learn more than just how to ride. They needed to learn about the care and keeping of horses and ponies, the areas where non-horsey parents who wanted to support their children didn’t always know how to help.
Bets Hoos remembers a trip she and India took to Richmond to visit a Pony Club there, and “see what it as all about.” What they saw made an impression. There were riders from all over the state in a clinic that was formatted for both mounted and unmounted sessions. The moms were very excited that there was such a thorough source of information for horse keeping and care, and the system was already in place to teach children to every appropriate level. The organization even had its own reference book: The Manual of Horsemanship. The power of this clinic Bets and India saw, was its force of volunteers. Local horsemen and women donated their time to further the education of the group of eager kids. Parents volunteered what skills they had: acting as EMTs, providing meals, and doing the organizational and book-keeping work necessary to run the clinic. The two Lynchburg moms realized that this “pony club thing” was just what our area needed, and we owe the inception of our club to this realization.
Bets and India saw all sorts of riding instructors teaching at the clinic they watched. They liked some instructor’s styles of teaching more than that of others. The mothers noticed that some children and their mounts looked like they were merely surviving the tasks asked of them when mounted. On the way home, the women decided that if they were able to get a club going, they would like to have as much emphasis placed on good riding as the excellent horse care they saw being taught. “Why not?” they thought. So the idea was planted, even before our club was formed. We would excel in horse management and in riding…not just have riders chase after the next rating. Riders would not just ride at the D,C, and B level in our club. They would ride that level well.
When the moms got home, the organizational work began. Each Pony Club must be sponsored by a recognized hunt, so they set about getting the support they needed from the Bedford County Hunt, which gladly supported our fledgling club. The Bedford Hunt Pony Club’s official colors followed those of its umbrella organization, and hence we came to have the seal brown and gold colors as part of our charter and our heritage. India and Bets bravely undertook the task of being Bedord Hunt Pony Club’s first District Commissioners, and Mrs. William Driskell, Jr. acted as BHPC’s first Secretary. In the fall of 1969, the Bedford Hunt Pony Club was officially born.
Avid area horsewomen, Mary Haskell Petty and Ann Alexander, supported the BHPC from its inception. The USPC’s fifteenth Annual Report, in April 1970, is the first BHPC is listed. The membership was thirty-five, and all 35 are listed in this report as “unrated.” The membership consisted of 32 girls and 3 boys. The report for our club reads:
The Bedford Hunt Pony Club, which was organized this past fall, has its first meeting early in October when Mrs. James K. Alexander and Mrs. Beverly Petty gave an excellent demonstration of both the C and A Program Rides. In November, we held our first mounted meeting when our members had a chance to practice their own program ride in preparation for rating to be held this spring. There was also a lecture and demonstration on grooming as well as games, which were the highlight of the day. Our December meeting and supper had to be cancelled because of bad weather, but Mr. Clayton Bailey has promised to schedule his lecture-demonstration on “Conformation of the Horse” sometime in 1970. Besides attending our indoor meetings, many of our members are hunting with Bedford County Hunt and all of us are looking forward to good weather and many more pony club activities.”
By the end of our first full year as a recognized club, BHPC had 31 members, including 10 C’s, 8 D’s, and 13 other unrated members. At our first rally, held in Fredericksburg, we sent two teams, and were proud that our C-1 team brought home blue ribbons! D level riders enjoyed a gymkhana and “D-Day”, a day full of games and cross country for beginning riders. September was the highlight of the year, when the pony club held the first Bedford Hunt Pony Club Horse Show, which was organized and run by the members themselves. Money earned from the show started a savings account for the next year’s rally expenses.
One of the highlights of that year was the Pony Club Hunt, at the invitation of the Bedford County Hunt Club. Over eighty were in the field, with good representation from both the Highlands and Roanoke Pony Clubs. In December of 1971, the pony clubbers organized a surprise Christmas party to honor the Co-D.C.s and Secretary, and Treasury. “They kept their secret so well that the Secretary delivered her child and left, only to be stopped halfway home and sent back to the party.” By their inclusion of this anecdote in the 1973 Annual Report the officers of our club made it clear how much they appreciated this gesture of thanks for all of their volunteer efforts. This is a fine example of the “Pony Club Spirit,” and a proud moment that BHPC should always aspire to replicate.
BHPC in 1972 could boast two B’s among their 21 members, along with 12 C’s, 5 D’s, and 2 unrated participants. This was also the infamous year of “The Flood Rally” where tack trunks went floating through the barns! The C-2 team managed to salvage “most everything” as well as bring home both the Stable Management and Sportsmanship trophies. Under the organization of Frances White, the Horse Show that year was more successful than ever. The Pony Club Hunt had great weather and everyone hunting enjoyed a tailgate of sandwiches, salad, and Cokes prepared by the Pony Clubbers themselves afterward.
Our club got its first taste of Beagling in 1973 with the Waldingfield Beagles from Charlottesville at the invitation of Sweet Briar College, which was a great way to learn the basics of foxhunting for those fit enough to keep up! Knowledgeable area horsemen gave lectures throughout the year: blacksmiths Joe Sitton and Roland DuVal, veterinarian Ronal Fessler, and Max Tappero on nutrition. By this year, BHPC had 27 members, including 3 boys! We had 2 B’s, 10 C’s, 7 D’s, and 8 unrated. Everyone worked hard under the tutelage of Chief Instructor Kit Sydnor at a two-week day camp in preparation for rallies, and that work paid off. We sent D and C teams to Virginia Beach for the Sectional Rally, and the delighted D’s returned with blue ribbons. A week later we went on to the Regional with a C team and a B individual. Our C’s again brought home the Stable Management Trophy. The Pony Club Horse Show was held at Mary Hakell Petty’s Meadowridge Farm (now Thistledowns…just imagine how beautiful it was without all those houses!). India Cann and the competent Pony Clubbers organized and manned the entire effort.
The membership in 1974 was a booming 36 members! Along with our 2 B’s, we had 16 C’s, 11 D’s and 7 unrated members. The year started off with a mock hunt, complete with four very loud veteran C “hounds”, to introduce our novice foxhunters to the rules and etiquette of the sport. The Bedford County Hunt again posted a Pony Club Hunt, which was instructive as well as fun, since all Pony Clubbers got to ride up front and a few lucky riders were asked to ride with the staff. Several of our riders joined Deep Run for their Pony Club Hunt. Four BHPC members rode in a clinic with Mike Plumb at Highlands Pony Club. Our instructor, Kit Sydnor, ran the day camp again, with two two-week sessions, one for D’s, then one for C’s and up. In June, we hosted the D Sectional rally and then sent two B’s to the Regional rally and were very proud when Linda Lauterbach won the B individual competition. On to Nationals, here the Virginia Region team came in second! At the C rally at Deep Run in August, BHPC members won the Stable Management trophy for the third year in a row. To finish up the year, the Club replenished the treasury with yet another successful horse show.
The fun continued right on into 1975 with another Mock Hunt, which was reportedly enlivened by the enthusiasm of the staff’s horses! Then the annual Pony Club Hunt, and the highlight of the year: a clinic given by Marshall Grey. The notes from that year read, “How lucky our children were to be exposed to the talents and expertise of such a grand horsewoman!” Kit Sydnor and Vera Herst ran another most successful four-week day camp, sent two teams to the D Sectional rally, and hosted the C Sectional rally at Sweet Briar. Our two C-1 teams were first and second, and they won the Stable Management trophy for the fourth consecutive year! What a reward for the hard work of our kids and their meticulous stable management coach, Frances White. The BHPC Horse Show, by now a fixture, was yet again a great venture.
With the membership now at 39, BHPC kept on rolling in 1976. The hunt activities had good turnout, Frances White held mandatory weekly stable management clinics for those wanting to go to rally, which paid off when our C team won the Stable Management trophy for the fifth time. The four-week Day camp provided intensive schooling for the forty attending Pony Clubbers…and all this hard work again paid off when the four D and C teams each won their rallies! Our B individual did well at the Regional rally. Our C’s were fortunate to have a clinic with Mrs. Presnikoff. D-Day for this year was “frantic with children and ponies arriving in droves. It makes it all worthwhile to see a pony smile when his rider has finally learned to put the bridle on with the bid right side up.” Once again, the BHPC Show filled the treasury so that the club could continue to pay rally expenses for its members.
“Sunday Afternoon at the Movies” was a treat for everyone; on top of the regular wintertime hunt activities. Everyone watched movies of our riders at the last year’s rallies, beginning with the D-1’s and progressing up. The show concluded with movies taken at the Olympics by two of our sponsors. With new goals clearly in sight, the BHPC members sprung into ’77. Along with the same camps and rallies, the club had its largest crop of riders with national ratings in our four B’s (Leslie Carter, Caroline Schenkle, Paul Sydnor, Anita Williams). “When our three B candidates passed their screening and finally their test, we collapsed for a month”, says the annual report for that year. But only a month – the annual horse show, which included a used tack sale, put money back in the bank for yet another year.
The winter of 1978 prevented much of anything horse-related from happening, according to the notes from that year. In the spring, members unpacked their tack and put away skis. Anxious to get these ponies fit for rallies, everyone went to work and keep diligent records in their booklets. After day camp, BHPC was once again prepared. We sent a D-1 team to Highlands hosted a rally at Randolph-Macon, sent a C-2 team to the Regional rally, and our B rider qualified for the Regional team. With a larger number of young members in our club, of 19 members, there were 2 B’s, 6 C’s, and 11 D’s) BHPC held a very successful mounted games meeting, which meant that a lot of the non-horsey parents could assist, and they had a ball!
Unfortunately, after 1979, the format of the USPC Annual Report booklets changed, so much of our club’s most recent history is not written. We do know that in 1982, the White sisters took over as Joint D.C.s for one year, during which time the club was much less active. When listing each club’s activities from the previous year, the 1982 Annual Report has BHPC only participating in a camp, not any rallies or other activities.
The 1983 Report lists BHPC as having one B level rider that year: Jill Jackson, who was our club’s first (and so far only) African-American member (UPDATED NEEDED on status of BHPC's African-American members, thanks to the addition of more A-A members since the writing of this history). Kit Sydnor joined Ann Alexander that year to share responsibilities as D.C. The chart in the back of that year’s report shows BHPC as being fully active once again, participating in dressage, combined training, trail riding, foxhunting, know-down, and show jumping.
Again, without the anecdotes in each year’s annual report, we have lost much about our club’s history. The early 1980's did have a period when the club went “inactive” and our club truly owed its existence to a few steadfast sponsors who kept up the paperwork so that our club would not lose its charter.
Past D.C.s: Bets Hooss, India Cann, Ann Alexander, Mary H. Pett, Pam Whitten, Kay White, Fances E. White, Kit Sydnor, Mary Ann Eustis, Lou Whitener, Margeret Turner, Brooks Arrington, Sally Baum, Sue Brady, Lou Toms, Mary Ping, Jane Frisa, Elouise Mason, Med Long, Lona Shaw, Janet Vickers.
(At the time of Jennifer Fessler's report the club [was]...being run by Cynthia Lofaso with the assistance of Emily Daily)
Very often, Pony Club graduates become volunteers whose considerable knowledge enables them to provide sound instruction for the next generation of members. BHPC is fortunate to have some of these generous people as instructors as instructors, including Ann Alexander, whose pony club peers on Long Island include Bernie Traurig, Joe Fargis, and Mike Plumb. Ann has successfully raised, trained and shown numerous show hunters, as well as teaching numerous riders. Kit Sydnor is a former member of Somerset Hills Pony Club (with the likes of Judy Richter and Carol Thompson) who went on to AHSA ‘r’ Judge for Dressage, Hunters and Hunter Seat Equitation and a well-respected teacher and clinician. Vicki Byrd is a 1994 graduate A from nearby Glenmore Hunt Pony Club, and she has a successful string of junior show riders. Jennifer Sydnor Fessler, from our own Bedford Hunt Pony Club, won the Equitation Award at the 1990 Showjumping Nationals and rode on the third place team that year. In 2000, Jennifer gave back to the club by coaching the BHPC “Rising Stars” at their Regional rally.
By Cynthia Lofaso
The past several years have seen a reemergence of BHPC with the club now active with 13 members. Over the past several years, members have participated in the regional Quiz Rally and Show Jumping Rally. Last year one of our youngest members, Jacob Lofaso, took home a top honor as a high point scorer in the Rising Star Division. This year our Rising Stars Pony Club is once again becoming active. In the year 2012. Currently we have 13 young riders who are all working to improve their skills and advance in their ratings. This year we too 10 D level members to quiz