How to get started pony racing

PUBLISHED: 18:30 09 September 2009 | UPDATED: 00:09 16 June 2010

If you want to have a go at point to point pony racing next year, now is the time to start thinking ahead and preparing.

If you want to have a go at point to point pony racing next year, now is the time to start thinking ahead and preparing.

You don't need an expensive racing pony to have a go, your pony club or hunting pony will be more than able to give you a good experience of the sport and you will find that all the riders currently taking part will be supportive and helpful.

First things first - your pony must be between five and 20 years old in 2010. He or she needs to have up to date vaccinations - get your vet to check that they are up to date if you are not sure as you need to check right the way back on the passport (go to www.pra.gb.com for detailed rules and regs).

The other thing you need to be aware of is that if your pony measures between 136-138 or 146-148cm you will need a height certificate valid after Jan 1 2010.

There is plenty of time to get those things sorted out if you start thinking about it in the autumn.

You need to be between 9-15 years old. To qualify you need to hunt your pony four times and then get the master to sign a form to say you have been out or you need to attend four pony club rallies and get your DC to sign. You can mix and match between the two.

Before you can race you will also need to join the PRA which is the Pony Racing Authority and the money you pay to join pays for an annual third party insurance policy for you when you are riding in a pony race which is run by the PRA either at a racecourse, point to point or a pony club race day.

So, you are qualified - in the six weeks or so before the race you need to try and get your pony fit - normal hunting fitness is fine - and you may need to adjust his feed a little if he is doing a lot more work. Make sure what you feed him/her is approved for ponies/horses competing under jockey club/FEI rules.

The big day approaches. Entries need to be made a week before the race takes place and a photocopy of your ponies' passport, height certificate and an entry form plus £15 needs to be sent to the entry secretary (for Devon and Cornwall that is Claire Wright, Barn Lane Farm, Stoke Rivers, Barnstaple, Devon. ) Entries need to be sent by post and will not be accepted on email.

When the entries have closed the entry secretary will send you an programme for the day.It will include the time you need to arrive for the riders' briefing and course walk, time for tack check, when you need to declare your pony to run, what time you need to be in the paddock and what time the race is.

At the briefing your hat and back protector will be checked to make sure they are up to the right standard (again see pra.gb.com for full details). You will be told specific information for the day and you will not be allowed to race if you miss it. A riders' course walk follows so you know exactly what to expect during the race.

Then there will be a tack check ( like a pony club tack inspection) when an official will check that you and your pony are wearing the right equipment. It is up to your parents/guardians to make sure it is all in a safe condition.

When the ponies go in the paddock they will be led around tacked up. Riders meet in a pre arranged spot and are called in by the paddock steward. After a few minutes a signal will be given for the riders to mount. This is when your parents have a last chance to check girths etc.

Then all the runners will leave the paddock together and walk to the start with a mounted steward. The starter will tell you what he wants you all to do but, generally, the runners circle round, while he takes a roll call to check you are all there. Girths will be checked and then you will line up ....and you're off, galloping along with up to 10 other ponies and riders.

All too soon it is all over and the ponies walk back to the paddock where you can tell your parents/guardians all about it. The first four take their ponies' tack off and 'weigh in' - they sit on the scales in the jockeys' tent so that we can see that no cheating went on!

After both races have taken place the presentations are made and there are rosettes for all.

Hopefully you will have had a great time and want to come back and do it again!

To keep up to date with pony racing in Devon and Cornwall go to www.devon24.co.uk/ponyracing. You can see there a bit of what went on last season and new rules and developments will appear on the website as soon as we know about them. Have fun!


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