The Te Puke Pony Club ran a very successful “First Start” competition this weekend and there were some very cute competitors having a go! The event was originally scheduled for earlier in the month, but was postponed due to some bad weather. The weather played the game this weekend, however, and it was a beautiful day for the event.
Late last year the New Zealand Pony Club introduced a new set of regulations called “NZPCA First Start – An Introduction to Competitive Riding” with the goal of creating a positive and safe place for junior and inexperienced riders to experience their first competitions. The activities are run in an enclosed area, as safety and fun are the main priorities.
“First Start” can be run as a separate event, or alongside an ODE, show jumping competition, dressage competition or pony club rally. The classes take a minimum number of volunteers to run, and qualified officials such as TD’s must be from a current ESNZ or NZPCA officials list.
Special dressage tests were written to allow the level one under-12-year-olds to compete on the lead rein. Level one also includes simple games and other orienteering type activities.
While there is no jumping in level one, the slightly more accomplished level two riders can compete over a simple 50cm show jumping or show hunter type of course with one change of rein or direction. They may also have a cross-country or obstacle course phase. The obstacles are simple and can include jumps as well as games and other activities.
There is a halt box in the middle of this phase to give a pause, thus keeping the whole activity at a manageable pace. The course has a maximum time limit, but no time faults can be incurred. The scoring system for First Start is positive affirmation, as opposed to penalties.
First Start is a great way to cater for the newest pony club members, and looking at the photos from Te Puke, it seems that those who participated certainly had a lot of fun!
Photos thanks to Raewyn Lawrence.