THEODORE may be a small town, but they can boast they have the biggest pony club in Central Queensland.
With 102 members, the town’s tiniest riders are banding together every fortnight for the age-old country tradition.
One member, Macy Francis, 10, Bears Lagoon, Moura, said she adores coming to Theodore with her quarter horse, Cruiser.
“Cruiser is really funny, he likes to be a big boofhead sometimes but sometimes he likes to be really nice and cuddly,” she said.
The youngest of three and the only daughter, Macy said she has loved horses “forever”, and began pony club when she was seven.
“I love pony club because, well, mostly because it's really fun and you get to experience new things,” she said.
“I've competed in one competition it was at the Biloela Gymkhana; I got one first and two seconds.”
For the past two decades there has been one familiar face at all pony club events through Doug Poole, Burnleigh, Taroom.
Doug began instructing at the pony club 21 years ago when his own children were attending, but as a pony clubber himself from his young days, his passion for the sport has been lifelong.
He said he has coached three students to become state title winners, which was a definite highlight.
But he keeps coming back – and said he will continue to until the club doesn’t need him anymore.
Doug said he has seen numbers fluctuate up and down plenty of times, but this current group was one of the largest; and certainly had plenty of the younger riders still on lead ropes.
The sport has changed a lot over the years.
“I was a pony clubber when I was a kid myself, we used to come in but not fairly regularly because in those days there was no trucks or anything, you had to borrow horses and all that,” he said.
“Then I put all my kids through until they went away to boarding school, and just carried on when they left.”
President of the Theodore Pony Club Michelle Hartwig said unlike Doug, she did not have an upbringing around horses or pony club.
After growing up in South Africa with her doctor-and-nurse parents, Michelle’s dad broached moving to Australia when Michelle was 15.
After 13 years of asking her parents for a horse, it was her father’s promise to buy her one which sealed the deal, and they moved to Australia to a five acre block outside of Brisbane.
Now Michelle and her husband Scott run a quarter horse stud among others ventures at Goolara Siding, Theodore.
She said in her entire life, she probably did two days of pony club, but has ridden since she got that first horse at 15.
With twins Addison and Isabella, seven, and Sophia, six, Michelle said the quarter horses they breed weren’t going to cut it for kids horses – so the family soon invested, much to Scott’s dismay, in Shetland ponies.
Michelle took over as president 12 months ago and is loving the role.
”Our one main aim is to be as active as possible and give the members as much bang for their buck as we can afford the time to give,” she said.
“We are aiming at ideally one rally day a fortnight all throughout the year, aiming at four clinics, at least two trail roads out of on properties a year, and we have booked in for this year three formal events - we're holding a gymkhana, a zone 9 gymkhana, and a Theodore Pony Club Campdraft.”
”Next year in a perfect world we'd like to hold a State event.”