Meet Natasha Schilling, a 15-year-old from Mildura Alcheringa Pony Club in Victoria.

Natasha has been a part of Pony Club since she was eight, and she recently achieved an exciting milestone by graduating from the Pony Club Australia Leadership Certificate Program. This program is for members aged 14 to 18 and focuses on building leadership skills and fostering personal growth through four main components: skill development, community engagement, leadership growth, and reflection. It’s about more than just horses; it’s about life skills too.

Developing Course Building Skills

In the first module, Natasha dove into learning a new skill. She completed a showjumping course on the FEI Campus platform and gained practical experience by pencilling for showjumping events with her former DC. She learned about rules and regulations for different jumping rounds, distances, lines, striding, and the nuances between indoor and outdoor arenas. Her hard work paid off when she designed and built a showjumping course for a rally at her Pony Club, earning great feedback.

Undertaking Volunteer Work

For the community development module, Natasha rolled up her sleeves and got involved. She volunteered as a penciller for the Dunnolly Pony Club and participated in a club working bee to clean up around the yards and grounds. Her willingness to help in times of need highlighted her strong leadership qualities.

A Passion for Horse Welfare

A significant part of Natasha’s journey was her project on Sue Dyson’s “The Ridden Horse in Pain Ethogram.” Natasha aimed to enhance the horse welfare component of the PCA rider syllabus by incorporating Dyson’s work on the 24 pain behaviours of horses. She wrote a detailed report and, with her mentor’s help, created presentation slides for various certificate levels. For example, she suggested E Certificate riders should learn to recognise behaviours such as bucking, rearing, and reluctance to move forward, emphasising that these behaviours could indicate pain or injury, not just a ‘naughty pony.’

Reflection and Personal Growth

Through her reflection, Natasha realised she had learned valuable lessons about leadership, teamwork, and self-improvement. When asked why she joined the Leadership Certificate Program, Natasha said, “I wanted to become a better leader, and I thought that I would get the chance to display my leadership skills, and I did.”

She was surprised by the program’s focus on teamwork, noting, “I didn’t realise that there would be a whole section about working in a team.” The program not only taught her new skills but also helped her understand the inner workings of Pony Club, which she found beneficial in her everyday life.

For those considering the program, Natasha’s advice is, “Make sure that you manage your time well and don’t lose track of where you are at.”

Looking ahead, Natasha plans to continue applying and improving the skills she gained. “I will make sure to apply my skills in life by taking on roles in a team and as a leader to help improve my skills,” she said.

Natasha’s journey through the Pony Club Australia Leadership Certificate Program shows how such programs can profoundly impact young members, equipping them with valuable skills and experiences that extend far beyond the Pony Club.