The Pony Club camp I taught at last week devotes their stable management sessions to achieving the care badges.
There’s hundreds of the blighters; mini badges for the little children, and big badges that require a greater depth of knowledge for the older children.
Was anybody in Scouts or Brownies when they were young? It’s a similar concept. Once you gain your badge you’re supposed to sew it onto your jumper so that you look like a brightly coloured patchwork quilt. I’ll admit, the kids do look cute with all their badges.
This camp though, is the only one that I see kids with badges at. I guess they get pushed to the bottom of the pile, underneath passing the D or C tests, riding, and below competitions and qualifying for PC championships.
I think, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, that young riders’ stable management knowledge is less nowadays than it was twenty years ago. How many of them can identify the ergot? Or list the rules of feeding? Yet many of them compete to a fairly high level. Perhaps Pony Clubs should pay more attention to improving their stable management knowledge? After all, better knowledge means their pony will be in better physical and mental health.
Yes some of the achievement badges are a bit obscure (star-gazing, and butterflies, for example) but teaching them could trigger another interest in a child, which is always healthy. And unless we teach these things the knowledge is lost forever. I know I would definitely have to research different types of butterflies if I ever had to teach it, but then maybe it would be more interesting for the kids if a butterfly expert was brought in to do a show-and-tell?
Perhaps kids nowadays think that wearing badges on their arm is geeky or uncool? In which case, is there a way to encourage participation and increase the “coolness” level? I’ll get back to you when I have an answer.
Maybe the achievement badges come into their own at PC centres. Centres are clubs for children without their own horse; usually run at riding schools. So these kids will have less focus on competing, and will have set stable management sessions. It makes logical sense then, to orientate these sessions around a specific badge. Then they can have a test once they have learnt the syllabus.
Or maybe the badges only appeal to those with a tendency to collect things. Like me! I ended up quitting Brownies because I never received the badges I had spent all summer doing. Initially I had the dilemma as to how to position them on my sash so that they were in order (ideally I think I wanted every badge before I sewed a single one on!) but then I became disenchanted by the lack of badges. Maybe it takes a certain type of person to enjoy collecting achievement badges.
Personally I find the badges useful for planning stable management sessions because you have a topic to talk about, and an aim. This is especially useful with the little ones. I think the little ones actually like receiving their badges, it’s just a question of maintaining this enthusiasm as they reach double figures. I was appalled by the poor knowledge the senior group had that I tested for their C test last month.
Pony Clubs tend to go very quiet over the winter, with the odd Christmas rally, or half term madness. The weather doesn’t help. But maybe doing some badge work that doesn’t involve being outside or getting muddy will help keep the spirit of Pony Club, and strengthen friendships. For example, you could print out pictures of the different birds in the bird spotting badge and hide them around a room (say the village hall) and once you have taught the children how to identify the different species they could go on a pretend bird hunt. Or they could organise some fundraising or charity work to get their fundraiser badge…
Teaching is only limited by our imagination, but I think I’d definitely like to see more children focusing on stable management, and improving their pony care as well as their riding ability. The key is to make the badges more appealing to the modern members.