Presenting our #RideToWrite Winners

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Childrens writing stories competition

writetoride unicorn 150x100 - Presenting our #RideToWrite WinnersDo you recall back at the beginning of April, we ran a wonderful story brought to us by Pony Club Mum, Pippa Ireland.  She had this idea to keep all the kids busy and occupied during Lockdown and came up with a brilliant ‘writing’ competition.

In her own words, Pippa said “I had read an article about how sponsored riders could maintain their presence and promote their own sponsors brands whilst in lockdown and unable to compete and coach etc.

This really struck a chord as my son is a Grassroots rider, sponsored by British Horse Feeds, Fantastic Books Publishing Ltd and most recently a new sponsor, Jackson Handling Ltd, and it set me thinking, What could we do to help?”

Pippa had already been asked, as a Pony Club Mum and Volunteer, if she could provide activities online to help entertain the pony club children in their Yorkshire Area 3 of the Pony Club and had been religiously posting quizzes and word searches on social media, mainly on the Pony Club Facebook page. Pippa then posted a poem, a light-hearted look at Eventing, which caught the imagination of many and was shared round a number of other sites. Having previously run a writing competition, 10 years ago, for an investigative project whilst a mature student at Bishop Burton, Pippa decided it might appeal to children stuck in lockdown and help parents struggling for ideas in the ‘home schooling’ department.

The list of sponsors was beyond impressive and the winners are truly in for a treat. 

Overall winner
Lucy Rowton-Lee with her story, The Prophet’s Thumbprint, which will be published in Equestrian Life online edition and posted below. 

Age 16 to 25 category
Winner: Lucy Rowton-Lee with her story, The Prophet’s Thumbprint
2nd: Pollyanna Jackson with her story, The Anatomy of Loss
3rd: Holly Clarke with her poem, Loved by Me
Winning entry with a racing theme: Lucy Rowton-Lee with the story, Running Free
Runner up with a racing theme: Elinore Wadsworth-Day with the story, Jack the Cob

Other prize winners
Philippa Allen with the non-fiction piece, My Moreton Morrell
Pip Young with the poem, Patience
Mathilda Gottschald with the story, The Swilcar Oak
Lucy Hainsworth with the story, The End of the Day, Beginning of a Lifetime
Georgie Estall with the non-fiction piece, The Scales of Training
Jasmine Hodge with the non-fiction piece, Chatsworth 2019: an unforgettable event
Amelia Fogden with the poem, Through the Night
Elinore Wadsworth-Day with the poem, Warrior Horse
Ella Carr-Smith with the poem, My Mare/Poppet
Izzy Hardy with the poem, My Mind Took Over
Eleanor Rycroft with the story, Wild Little Girl
Milly Struel with the poem, Letter to a ghost
Jennifer Peacock with the story, For the Love of Horses

Age 12 to 15 category
Winner: Musa Hussain with his non-fiction piece, Grooming During the Corona Virus Pandemic, which will be published in Equestrian Life online edition and posted online below.
2nd: Sarah Farnsworth with her story, Eternal Light
3rd: Amelie Peters with her poem, Bilbo
Winning entry with a racing theme: Peter Gregory with the story, My Unexpected Boxing Day Win
Runner up with a racing theme: Evie Whitaker with the story, Pip the Unicorn
Other prize winners
Beli Kilroy with the story, The Peckish Pony
Emma Robson with the story, Why us?
Jenny Brewis with the non-fiction piece, The Horse Who Lived
Jessica Grigg with the poem, Gone
Megan Bainbridge with the story, The Horse and the Leaf
Poppy Field with the poem, Thundering Past
Annabel Wrigley with the story, Belladonna and the Primrose Line
Annija Krumins with the poem, Horse Sense
Celeste Marr-Johnson with the story, Fly
Charlie Lindley with the poem, The Pony Club
Holly Fisher with the story, Your Secret’s Safe with Me
Isy Stamper with the story, Ghost Rider
Hannah Jones with the poem, Skye

Age 11 and under category
Winner: Eva Henton-Young with the story, The Secret River, which will be published in Equestrian Life online edition and posted below.
2nd: Rosemary Gentry with the story, The Daredevils
3rd: Scarlett Hardcastle-Nice with the story, Swallow Island
Winning entry with a racing theme: Rosemary Gentry with the story, The Palio
Runner up with a racing theme: Oliver Miller with the story, Buddy the Racing Pony

Other prize winners
Isla Kinns-Brown with the poem, A Ride in the Rockies
Isla Granger with the story, Memories
Magenta Device with the poem, Cross Country Day
Emily Spicer with the story, Dilly and I
Daisy Holland Hewlett with the poem, Daisy and Fat Dave
Kara Hosmer with the story, The Foal Child
Roberta Gaskell with the story, An Exmoor Puzzle
Ella Plumb with the poem, New Life
Daisy Caldwell with the story, The Adventures of Pony Club Camp
Isla Kinns-Brown with the story, The Forgotten Legend
Sienna Alwan with the story, Stub-born to Ride
Tilly van Poortvliet with the story, Natalie and Horse Number 26
Toby Duncombe with the story, A Story of Two Ponies
Gabriella Marsh with the story, The Bunnies Bottom Adventure
Ruby Broadhead with the non-fiction piece, My Most Memorable Day Out Hunting
Noah Marsh with the story, The Swap

Age 7 and under
Winner: Heidi Walker with the story Running for the Wind
Runner up: Mathilda Holt with the poem, My Best Friend
Runner up: Emma Chant with the non-fiction piece, Elvie and Me
Organisers’ choice from Area 3: Hamish Scott with his poem A Pony Called Sparky

Special prize for youngest entrant
4-year-old Amelia Anstee with the story, Peter and the Unicorn

Congratulations to all the winners
Read on for details of the competition, the sponsors, the judges and the writing tips. And if you would like to know what made a winning entry, why the winners won and others didn’t, then follow the blog on this website where the judges will talk about what made a winning entry and what made a near miss, and will give some pointers for future competitions. To be notified when the judges comments are published, put your email in the ‘Follow my blog’ box.  

Thank you to everyone who took part and to the sponsors for their generosity in donating an amazing set of prizes.

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The winner of the 11-and-under age group in the 2020 Pony Club Write2Ride creative writing competition http://bit.ly/Write2Ride was Eva Young with her story The Secret River. The judges said it showed imagination as well as a good sense of story structure.

The Secret River

by Eva Henton-Young

One summery day in the garden, Trudy was running as fast as a tiger. Just as she was about to get tagged by her daddy, she dodged out of the way and tripped over a dull tree stump that she had never seen before by the big old oak. As she put her hand down on the tree stump to pick herself up, she saw sparkly pink bubbles rising from a tiny hole under her middle finger. Without warning she felt bubbles tickling her arm.

Suddenly Trudy found herself walking through two huge candy-cane gates into a field full of lime green candyfloss grass swaying in a gentle breeze. Treading carefully, she approached the edge of a pink river bubbling with raspberry lemonade. The caramel chocolate riverbank was shiny and smooth and there stood a glittering greedy grey pony drinking from the river underneath a magnificent tree decorated with sparkling edible jewels.

A moment later the pony looked up at Trudy and, to her surprise, said, “Happy Birthday Trudy.”

“How did you know it was my birthday today?” asked Trudy.

“I know it’s your birthday because I am King Ossie 1 of this underground land and on birthdays I open up the magical candy-cane gates that lead to my golden castle.”

Trudy looked beyond the jewel tree and in the midst of the towering crispy white meringue mountains she caught sight of a golden castle that looked like a humongous birthday cake with a balloon flag flying high in the sky.

King Ossie 1 said, “Hop on my back and I will carry you to my castle.”

So that is just what Trudy did.

Clippity clop went King Ossie 1’s hooves as they galloped along the rocky road. The sun beamed down making the sparkly lollipop bushes shimmer and shine whilst rainbow birds tweeted and swooshed along by their sides. The blue sky was clearer than Trudy had ever seen before. The whole land was magical beyond belief.

Under the bright sun King Ossie 1 and Trudy rounded a bend and the sky turned as black as soot as an ominous cloud appeared above them. A very peculiar smell drifted towards them.

“Oh no, it’s The Nameless One,” whispered King Ossie 1.

“Who is The Nameless One?” said Trudy in surprise.

“Black clouds come drawing in whenever he is near. He lives in the green gooey spinach swamp the other side of the candy-cane gates. He is smart, stinky and slimy and he is so dangerous that he can eat you up in one crunch!”

As quick as a flash the most dreadful crocodile appeared right in front of them on the rocky road road.

“Hold on tight, Trudy, we’re about to jump.”

The Nameless One snapped his beady jaws ferociously. Galloping like the wind, King Ossie 1 jumped high and far over The Nameless One. As soon as they landed King Ossie 1 kicked The Nameless One right on the end of his nose making him fly backwards.

King Ossie 1 and Trudy got away but The Nameless One chased them.

“I’ve got an idea,” shouted King Ossie 1. “We won’t manage to get to the castle in time so let’s go to the river and jump over it. The Nameless One is smelly and stinky and if the raspberry lemonade river bubbles touch him his powers will be rinsed away.”

“Great idea,” yelled Trudy. “Go faster.”

Trudi grabbed the powerful pony’s mane and held on tightly. Away they rode across the lime green candyfloss fields, lickety-split for the raspberry lemonade river. The Nameless One was gaining wildly on them. Ahead of Trudy was the bubbling river and King Ossie 1 charged down the caramel chocolate riverbank and put in an almighty leap. Just as they were soaring through the air a bubble touched Trudy’s foot and she felt a tickling sensation.

“Crocodile, run!” shouted Bramble.

Trudy sat up in astonishment. The Nameless One was chasing her older sister Bramble too.

“Tag, you’re it!” giggled Bramble.

Phew, I’m safe, thought Trudy as she looked around at her own peaceful garden. As she stood up she glimpsed one glittery grey horse hair float up and away, shimmering in the afternoon sunlight.

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The winner of the 12-to-15 age group in the 2020 Pony Club Write2Ride creative writing competition http://bit.ly/Write2Ride was Musa Hussain with his non-fiction entry, Grooming During the Corona Virus Pandemic. The judges said that Musa’s entry, which gives a detailed account of grooming a horse, neatly combined the practical side of grooming with a deeper understanding of the bond between rider and horse, and was written with a real sense of their relationship.

Grooming During the Corona Virus Pandemic

by Musa Hussain

The global pandemic has not been fun. It has affected everything from travelling to sports. My sport, horse riding, has had to cancel all the competitions and some people aren’t even able to see their horses. Luckily, I can still see my horse, Zorro. Thankfully, in December I moved to a yard close enough to home that meant I could cycle there. The combination of the pandemic and moving yards has meant that I have been able to do things I normally don’t have time for. For example, I have been able to do lots more grooming.

From doing this extra grooming, and from speaking to Zorro’s physiotherapist and chiropractor, I have learnt so much about my horse, and how I can help him perform to the best of his ability. My short essay is about how I groom, what I have learnt from grooming, and how I have been able to use this knowledge when I am riding Zorro.

There are many advantages to grooming, not just presentation. The time that you spend with your horse helps make your bond stronger so that when you are riding they can and will try even harder for you. It is easier to find new cuts and bruises when you are spending a lot of time around your horse. If done correctly, grooming can be a massage for the horse, and improve circulation. It is hard work but rewarding. This is how I like to groom Zorro and how I use grooming to our advantage.

First of all, I tie up Zorro for his safety just as much as mine. Then I pick out his feet, and check all his shoes are still on, and fitting well. I also check that there is no heat or swelling in his legs. Finally I make sure there is no infection in the hoof, for example thrush which makes the hoof smell. I agree with the saying ‘no feet no horse’, so it’s important to look after them. When I lift each leg up, I want to make sure he naturally lifts his legs with the bend at the knee and hocks as equal as possible. If I feel more resistance on one leg compared to the other, I try to find the cause so that I am aware of it and can try my best to help him.

Next, especially at this time of year, I use a rubber curry comb to remove some of Zorro’s  shedding winter coat. After the rubber curry comb I like to use a flick brush. The purpose of the flick brush is to remove any obvious dirt and do a general clean of his body and legs. I also give his mane a quick flick over on both sides to remove any dust. The pony club manual recommends a dandy brush for this task, but I find it more effective to use a flick brush. If there are any stains present I use a sponge and bucket of water to scrub them out.

The main part of my grooming comes next. Doing it properly means Zorro gets a good massage and his coat becomes less greasy. You need a fairly hard body brush and a metal curry comb. The short hairs of the brush are made specifically to reach through and clean all the way through to the bottom of the coat. If you are on the right side of the horse, hold your body brush in the right hand and the curry comb in the left.      

I use a specific technique to really massage Zorro. I try to get into a rhythm and use short circular motions following the tone and direction of the muscle. Every 10 or 15 strokes I pull the body brush across the curry comb to take off the grease. To clean the curry comb, tap it vertically on the floor. I generally start on the right side, at the top of the neck and gradually work my way down.

Zorro has a particularly tight section of his pectoral muscle near the point of both his shoulders, but the left shoulder is tighter. I really notice this when I am asking for medium trot strides. Zorro will lengthen his right shoulder more easily and so lengthens his stride more. So when I get to this tight section, I like to spend extra time brushing it to try to really loosen it up.

This is where I tend to get reactions from Zorro. If I do a good job, he will give me a chew, a yawn, and a stretch, which means the muscle has released some of the tension. I then keep on working through his body. When I start on his back, I get a lot of reaction when I brush approximately half way down the longissimus dorsi. Again, he is also slightly tighter on the left side than the right. This is shown when I ride 10 metre circles. He finds the necessary bend for the circles easier to the right than to the left.

I then carry on massaging all the way down to his hindquarters. Currently me, my coach and my chiropractor all agree that Zorro needs to build up his quadriceps and biceps femoris. So when I reach these muscles I like to spend a bit more time brushing them because he is having to work them harder than normal and therefore they are more susceptible to becoming tense. In order to collect and lengthen his stride he needs to be really engaged from behind to have the lift and the power necessary. It is hard for him to change the length of strides when he doesn’t have the muscle needed to do it.

Continuing on with the grooming, when I change sides, I always like to ask Zorro to step through and over, almost like a turn on the forehand, and I try to make his turns as even as possible. Zorro finds it harder to step through with his right hind. I used to think he was being badly behaved. Since I’ve started grooming him more I’ve realised it’s not rudeness and is actually tightness two-thirds of the way down his longissimus dorsi.

The rest of the grooming is more for presentation. I flick over his mane with a flick brush again and do the same with his forelock. Then I use a face brush to lie the hairs neatly in the right direction. I use my plastic curry comb to untangle his tail. Next, I use my softer body brush to polish off Zorro’s body. Then I use my stiffer body brush to add a bit more polish to his legs. I will then take my water brush and dampen the end of the bristles. I will then flick it along the top of his mane to lie it down flat. Finally I like to add hoof oil, especially around the coronet band, to keep it healthy so that the growth of the hoof stays as good as possible.

Grooming improves the health of the skin and coat, and cleans the horse so that no chafing occurs underneath the tack. It gives the groom a chance to check for cuts, or a change in temperament which could indicate some form of sickness, and also to make sure no shoes are missing. It also helps to form a relationship between horse and rider. My time in the stable this spring has really given me an appreciation of my horse; what he finds hard, why he finds it hard, and how to try and improve things for us. My mother and coach say the downside to all my grooming is that although Zorro looks fantastic, I look like a grubby mess.

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The overall winner of the 2020 Pony Club Write2Ride creative writing competition http://bit.ly/Write2Ride was Lucy Rowton-Lee with her entry The Prophet’s Thumbprint, based on a true story. The judges said that Lucy’s was a well-structured and well-rounded story that brought out the emotions of the experiences and illustrated the special relationship between rider and horse.

The Prophet’s Thumbprint

by Lucy Rowton-Lee

Slumped at the back of his stable, pain and discomfort glazed his eyes, Frisco couldn’t move, he was in agony. I longed to help him but I just didn’t know what was wrong. Seconds felt like hours as I checked the time again, wishing our vet would arrive. I reached out my hand and steadily ran it down his mane. With my thumb pressed into the small indent at the base of his neck a tear escaped as I recalled the previous six incredible years with my best friend. He had taught me everything I know about riding, companionship and loyalty.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of tyres screeching up the track. I ran to show the vet to Frisco’s stable. Panic and fear embedded deep in my thoughts, I tried to understand the vet’s occasional observations. Before I knew it phone calls had been made and my precious horse was being sedated for further examination. Five more vets arrived and together came to the decision to wake him up and take him to the veterinary clinic for emergency surgery.

Just like that, my world had been turned upside down and I was left in despair.

It was dark when the phone rang. The line was weak but the words spoken by the vet stabbed at me with immeasurable strength. “I am afraid he has terminal bladder cancer.”

I was left silently hysterical. Thoughts, emotions and memories flooded my mind. How long does Frisco have? Will I ever see him again? What will I do without him? I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t talk. I just listened as the vet spoke over the deafening silence. “This type of cancer has never been identified in a horse before. Frisco has an aggressive tumour occupying over three quarters of his bladder. Whilst we want to remain positive, right now we are monitoring and recording any changes and will keep you updated.”

There was overwhelming concern now in the vet’s voice. I prioritised my thoughts and just about managed to ask if I could come and see him. To my disappointment the vet said it was best to stay at home and let them work overnight.

Fear kept me awake throughout the night, taunting me with horrendous prospects of never riding, grooming or even seeing Frisco again. I sat in my bedroom staring at the photos, rosettes and sashes pinned up on the walls. Every inch of the room reminded me of my incredible best friend and the journey we had been on together. However, everything seemed meaningless without Frisco at home with me; the national titles, sponsorship deals and prize money suddenly all seemed worthless. The word ‘terminal’ reverberated in my head. Frisco didn’t just have bladder cancer, but he had terminal bladder cancer. How were the vets so sure it was terminal if it had never been seen in a horse before? Horror and confusion engulfed me.

Morning eventually came but I couldn’t eat, I was consumed by anxiety and desperately wanted to speak to the vet. My parents tried to reassure me that no news was good news, but it wasn’t helping.

I reached for the phone to make the call. As I punched in the number I questioned if this was sensible, what if Frisco hadn’t made it through the night? It was too late, our vet’s voice was at the end of the phone.

Timidly I asked after my beloved horse.

The tone of the voice changed as the vet informed me there was no change; Frisco was unstable and undergoing tests.

I asked as many questions as possible before the vet interrupted me in a sympathetic tone. “I spent the whole night in Frisco’s stable with him. I can tell he misses you, but you have to be strong for him. We don’t know what we are dealing with here, but you and I both know he is an extraordinary horse. Just remember what I told you when we first met him.”

Putting down the phone I recalled the first time we met Frisco.

A glimmer of a smile flashed across my face as I thought back to that cold, wet evening. I was only ten at the time and overexcited as I watched my potential new horse’s vetting.

“But what’s that hole in his neck?” I remember asking the poor vet, who was desperately trying to finish the 5-stage vetting and get home before dark.

Freezing cold and trying not to lose his temper, he had peered through his glasses to identify the ‘hole’ in question. The skewbald gelding, who biddably stood for his vetting and secretly loved all the attention from his potential new owner, did actually have a rather unusual indent at the base of his neck.

Realising this was the first good question I had asked all evening, the vet had put down his stethoscope in astonishment. “This is a Prophet’s Thumbprint,” he said in amazement. “Totally harmless to the horse, but my goodness does it have legendary story. It is believed that the Prophet Mohammed had been lost in the desert for days on end with his herd of horses. Exhausted and dehydrated there was little chance of survival. Finally, when an oasis could be seen on the horizon he sent the herd forth to rehydrate. Desperate and relieved, the thirsty horses headed towards the oasis, however, just as they reached the water’s edge he called them back to him. Only five mares stopped and returned. It was very clear these five were special and to thank them for their loyalty, he blessed each mare by pressing a thumbprint into their necks.”

The vet held his thumb up to the indent on Frisco’s neck and grinned with disbelief. “Horses displaying this mark are descendants of one of the five mares. They are exceptional and should be treasured. This chap here is extraordinary, no question about it. He will never give up on you and when it counts most, he will be there, fighting by your side.”

Astonished, I looked into Frisco’s gentle eye. With my hand on his shoulder and my thumb pressed in the indent at the base of his neck, I promised that I would never give up on him and when it counted most, I would be there, fighting by his side.

This memory filled me with hope. I had made a promise to Frisco that day and I knew I had to be with him right now. He was the strongest horse out there and I couldn’t give up on him.

Walking through the stables at the clinic, I searched desperately. My heart sank as I found the stable marked with his name. It was empty.

I assumed the worst and slumped against the stable door with my head in my hands weeping. I wished to see his face just one more time.

I felt someone take my hand. It was a veterinary nurse who led me to the consultation room where our vet was studying blood samples. He pointed at a small cracked window at the back of the room which looked out onto a paddock. There, courageously standing with his head up and ears pricked, was my gorgeously handsome Frisco.

Darting out to the paddock tears were streaming down my cheeks as I was met at the rails with a huge whinny and Frisco’s gentle eyes. I threw my arms around him and lay my hand on his shoulder with my thumb pressed into the indent on his neck. He was the strongest horse alive.

The vet told me that only half an hour ago Frisco stood up on his own and began to eat again. The other vets were speechless and had never seen such a miraculous horse before. Frisco’s ears pricked forward at the comment.

Frisco wasn’t yet out of the woods and was to be kept in the clinic for further monitoring. His recovery wasn’t easy and we spent many nights together back at the clinic when fears arose that his cancer had developed further and spread.

However, four months later I was able to saddle him up and ride him again. I had always known this horse was special, but he proved to us he is exceptional by re-writing medical textbooks and finding the strength within him to battle through when the odds were against him.

I lay beside Frisco in his stable, dreaming of the adventures we would have together, my hand on his shoulder and my thumb pressed in the indent at the base of his neck. I felt truly blessed to have my extraordinary best friend by my side once again.

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