Written by Sue Ellis, Foundation Member. (Oct 07)
In the late 80's and early 90's Chris Downie and I used to have dressage lessons every week with Sue Chandler (now in Victoria) at Glenelg. Also Chris' sister Diana Brown used to join in too. At this stage Susie D was about 10, Mardi, Henry and Claire D 6ish and Diana had two girls about the same age. Come school holidays we asked Sue to give the kids a lesson. She wasn't actually that keen on teaching little people, and especially hated Shetland ponies, of which there was 'Pumpkin' and the Brown's pony 'Rose', which Sue pointed out was far from a Rose and insisted on calling her 'Thorn' much to the little girls horror!
Lter there was also 'Jellybean' the mount of Kate Nicholas. Susie at that stage had Lumby who ended up going to Libby a few years later. Mardi and Henry shared Pumpkin for a while then we had a little pony called 'Sammy' who was completely wicked on the ground, but ok to ride. After a year or soword got around that there were lessons happening in the holidays and a few others joined. The Nicholas', Johnstons (Georgia & Poppy's cousins), Onslows, Woods, Holmes' and Shoobridges' and a few others from the area who i can't put names to right now. Some of these families joined DPC after we'd been going for a year or two.
It was about 1992 when we decided that we should start an 'official' pony club to cater for children in the area and allow them to compete. New Norfolk was decided upon as the base for the club, although Ouse had been considered. New Norfolk was a bit more central for travelling instructors and to draw members.
The Jonhstons, Onslows and Woods (all Ouse) whose children were a bit older then ours decided not to wait for an emerging club, and joined Monmouth. We were tempted to do that, as apart from the travelling distance, it would have been alot easier to slot in to an existing club, but we felt the valley needed a club to replace the old one at Magra which serviced the area years before.
So Diana, Chris and I set about forming our club. We decided on the name Derwent PC for obvious reasons, and after great consideration chose our colours. The green represented the rural 'lush' Derwent Valley (a bit of a joke lately!) and the blue, the river and sky. Also we were limited by which colours other clubs already used. I personally love Derwent's colours and hope everyone else does too! Of course there were all sorts of bureaucratic jobs that had to be done to register a new club. Diana's husband, Bruce, was good at all that and kindly took care of it.
The clubs philosophy, as well as encompassing the overall one of the Pony Club Australia, was to always provide the highest quality instruction that we could; to remain a small club rather then a large one if it helped achieve the former; and to be a 'friendly' club and not go down the pathway of internal bickering and politics as so many other clubs do.
We had to elect officials before becoming registered. The inaugural DC was Diana Brown. Chariman in those days was Mr. Peter Croft, a well known person in the equestrian world then, and Bruse Brown was Treasurer. I can't remember who was secretary probably Diana did that as she was very efficient! Chris and I sort of organised rallies and did a lot of practical jobs that didn't have names then, but still have to be done to get a club running and keep it going. I also instructed a bit then when we were short.
We also had to find a 'home' for the club that the New Norfolk council was happy with. They didn't hold equine persuits in very high regard back then. We were a big nuisance! The council finally agreed we could hold our rallies on the Esplanade.
Our very first offical rally was held on the New Norfolk Esplanade on October 31st 1993. Inaugural riding members were: Susie Downie, Mardi and Henry Ellis, Victoria and Katie Brown, Peta Hay, Misty Hume, Elizabeth Marriot, Sarah Connelly and Bianca Parker. Fiona Isaac was also a member, but not there on that day. Mardi is the only remaining original member!! (just to make you feel old Mards!) Grace was 4 months old and spent all rallies in the back of our discovery which doubled as a play pen/cot, until she started climbing out to join in!
The next year the club was represented at the Royal in the flat and riding classes and team of three (Mardi & Cocoa, Henry & Rusty, Susie & Lumby); and came 4th against the 'big' clubs! In those days the big clubs had two or three teams if they wanted, so we were very pleased!
L > R , Henry, Mardi, Susie
Storing gear was not a problem then as we didn't have any! Chris and I used to bring some jumps and poles from home each rally and some witches hats, until we gradually acquired some equipment and built the disgusting jump wings that I know you all LOVE carting around! . . not!
On the Esplanade we ran several dressage and showjumping days in the early years to raise money and awareness of the club existance. It was a spectacular place for rallies and horse events, with those lovely big trees and the beautiful river. The local residents complained about the PA system's noise on Sunday mornings so we couldn't do that for much longer! After a year or two we moved camp to the Royal Derwent Hospital site where there was a bit of a flat open space and a vacant ward to use as a club house. This room freaked the children out completely! As hards as they tried to cover over the stark, cold, tile walls and remnants of fittings for a ward of mentally disabled patients, with horsey pictures, it still retained the feeling that it was full of ghosts!! To add the the atmosphere, we ofter had some very zealously, helpful inmates wander over from the still used wards, to join our rallies!
I then became the next DC and did that for 3 years. We only had three positions; DC, Secretary and Treasurer. We just shared all the jobs. The number in the club waxed and waned in the early days as they do now, shrinking when older members (who had to leave at 18) left and growing the new intake of youngies. Its always averaged around 18 members.
So, as I write this, it is the 13th birthday of the Derwent Pony Club! Maybe we can celebrate at the October Rally! Or over the season with some more Derwent successes!