Pony Club joins initiative aimed at building a positive equestrian culture

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The New Zealand Pony Club Association has joined ESNZ's Change the Rein campaign.
The New Zealand Pony Club Association has joined ESNZ’s Change the Rein campaign.

New Zealand’s Pony Club movement has taken up the reins of a national campaign to advocate for a caring, supportive and positive culture in equestrian sport.

The Change the Rein campaign, launched by Equestrian Sports New Zealand, the country’s governing body for horse sport, is being rolled out across the country.

More than 100 message boards have already been sent to events to use, as well as GameChangers awards for people who exhibit the values of the campaign – kindness, support, horse care, gratitude and integrity.

The New Zealand Pony Club Association, which announced this week it will join the campaign, is viewed as a key partner able to drive its messages further into the equestrian community.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Dana Kirkpatrick said the organisation was excited to have the Pony Club on board as its first partner in the campaign, which will reward great behaviour and advocates for a supportive and pleasant equestrian community.

“The messages are designed specifically for equestrian sport and have already piqued international interest,” Kirkpatrick says.

Pony Club chief executive Samantha Jones said her organisation was pleased to be joining the campaign.

“We all have a role to play in making equestrian sports a fun and friendly place for everyone to enjoy.

“The simple but powerful messages in Change the Rein will help us all to remember to be kind to one another and to recognise, in ourselves and others, positive values and actions that really make a difference to our day.”

The campaign employs the technical riding term, Change the Rein, which means change direction. It became the campaign catchphrase because of its reference to a conscious change, in this case relating to behaviour.

It is said to be resonating well.

“We have received so much incredible feedback about this campaign from other countries,” Kirkpatrick says.

“You get the feeling it is working when others start quoting its philosophy back to you. We have had interest from other equestrian federations and lots of individuals – we are so excited to see it expand.”

The campaign was developed after behavioural issues that the national governing body wanted to tackle.

Subsequent research revealed that some people were apprehensive about joining a sport they perceived as complex and a bit scary.

Change the Rein is broken into three stages.

The first stage, Rein It In, was about stopping unwanted behavioural issues and societal problems from polarising people’s views of equestrian sport. This saw Equestrian Sports New Zealand begin some of the first amateur sport testing for drugs and alcohol at events, conduct member research on issues and perceptions, and rejuvenate its entire judicial system.

Stage two is Tighten the Reins. It includes the development of key messages, programmes and resources to support the campaign’s key messaging, roll-out of the message boards, and reward and recognition programmes. This has already resulted in a different feeling at events, as well as positive and supportive behaviours.

People who don’t behave in a way consistent with the messaging are being challenged in a constructive way.

Stage three is called Loosen the Reins. It will be when we are all happy and we can see that everyone naturally behaves in a positive and supportive way.

Both Equestrian Sports New Zealand and the Pony Club are excited about the possibility that the campaign can be used by other equestrian-related organisations and are happy to build it with more partners nationally and globally.

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