Geoffrey Brown #2 cover sheet:
Place of Interview;Historian’s office, Scoville memorial Library
Date:June 25, 2015
Summary of talk:Lakeville Pony Club from a parent’s point of view, local, regional, National, and International Pony clubs.
This is file #99. This is Jean McMillen. Today I am interviewing Geoffrey Brown for his second interview. This one is about Pony Club and how he got involved. He is also going to talk about local, regional, national and international Pony Club. I am going to skip over the genealogical information. Today’s date is June 25, 2015.
JM: Mr. Brown how did you get involved with Lakeville Pony Club?
GB: I think I got involved with Pony club the way most people do. My daughter developed an affinity for horses when she was around her single digit years. Somehow heard of Pony Club and ascertained that there was an entity called the Lakeville Pony Club and decided that she wanted to be in that.
JM: Do you remember approximately the year?
GB: I asked my wife that this morning. She thinks that we actually joined Pony Club in 1986.
JM: That sounds just about right. Who was running Pony Club at that time?
GB: When you talk about running in Pony Club, you are really talking about two different things, especially with regard to Lakeville.
JM: We need Lakeville first.
GB: The district commission who is the elected head of the club. The adult head of the club was a woman named Penny Warren from Millerton, NY. I don’t remember who her joint district commissioner was or the #2 adult in the club was. The people who were really running the club except for administrative duties were Linda Bushnell and Susan Reich. I think Linda perhaps more than Susie.
JM: Yes, at that time she was. Where was Pony Club located at that time?
GB: It has just moved from Fair Weather Farm at Race Track Road to the Belcher Farm on Rt. 112. That had been within the last year. Early on we were still getting stuff from the old place. Where is such and such; oh my gosh it is in the tack stall down at the other barn. We would go down there and look for it.
JM: What was the name of the farm on Race Track road?
GB: Fair Weather and the reason was that it didn’t have anything to do with rain.
JM: Who owned that farm? Was it Mrs. Baroody?
GB: I think Mrs. Baroody did. The Baroody farm was right across the street and they used to have their horse shows there, but that was the only thing they used that farm for. Nancy Baroody had been a member of Lakeville. Her interests took her way far afield into some national prominence.
JM: How long was your daughter in Pony Club?
GB: She was in Lakeville from 1986; she stayed an active member until about 1992.
JM: So it is about 6 years.
GB: Yeah, more or less.
JM: What was your daughter’s name?
GB: Sidney Brown. She still is Sidney Brown; she is married, but like her mother, she kept her maiden name.
JM: As a Lakeville Pony Club parent, what were you responsible for?
GB: The horses are pretty labor intensive. As a Pony Club parent an awful lot of stuff and the more your kid did, the more you were responsible for. At that point in time, this was not true before and I understand it isn’t true anymore; the first thing you were responsible for was to provide a mount for your kid. The pony club didn’t have horses. Before that Lucy Drummond had provided horses.
JM: Yes, she had.
GB: That as a result meant that if your kid was in Lakeville Pony club you either owned or leased a horse. We had initially leased a pony from a family who had been in Pony Club previously. We later learned that the pony had been purchased with funds that had been abstracted from the Salisbury Bank & Trust Co.
JM: That’s clever. You have a hot horse there!
GB: As it turned out, that was a story in itself because Sinbad was a wonderful flea bitten grey pony, a very good pony to learn on. One morning when Sidney was grooming Sinbad in his stall, the door was open as a safety consideration in case she should get kicked. People would know she was there. Sinbad saw his friends being taken out across the road, and he wanted to go with them. The door was open so he went. He unfortunately was hit by a Volvo on Rt. 112 and had to be put down. I still remember Dean Davidson dragging him behind a tractor to a manure pile out on the other side of the road where the ground was soft enough to dig to bury a horse.
JM: That was a traumatic experience for your daughter.
GB: It was traumatic. That led us to acquire another horse.
JM: I did not realize that they were groomed sort of free standing and tied to anything.
GB: Normally most people would groom a horse on cross ties, in other words with a halter on and ropes running on each side of the aisle. For whatever reason at that time, maybe for the reason that there were too many kids for the amount aisle, they kids were encouraged to groom in the stalls. For safety reasons I guess they left the doors open.
JM: When your daughter was in Pony Club (1986-1992) about how many members off hand?
GB: I am going to say about a dozen on the average. I can almost name them.
JM: Well you can give me some names.
GB: I remember Anne Morrill, Zoe Gotterer, My wife soon became district commissioner because whoever was in that job quit. Katy Roberts did join. She is a PhD. working for the National Institute for Health, we are still in touch. I know that because of the horse requirement and I don’t remember how Katy got around it except by being very polite to an awful lot of adults and borrowing an awful lot of horses. I remember Karen Poglitch; we still see Karen every so often. My wife advised her not to join Pony Club simply because she didn’t have a horse or the wherewithal to acquire one and didn’t have Katy Roberts’ social graces.
JM: We used to take the children to the Holley-Williams house for a social evening where they would entertain their parents with recitations and songs. This was one of those evenings and there is a picture of me in costume with Karen’s mother holding hands (with me) and Karen is going through our hands.
GB: Karen is just the sweetest person, and her life has not come out as well as one would hope. I remember Karen. There were Edie Warren’s two daughters; they were from Millerton. Lauren Laitala…
JM: Oh my goodness, yes, Ellis and Pat‘s daughter. So you have named all the people in Lakeville pony club that I had in my fourth grade. She was quiet.
GB: Yes, she was. She turned out to be the success of that era. She became the first B rated pony clubber since maybe Jen Rossire. She also was selected for National several times. She was selected for the Inter Pacific exchange which took her to Hong Kong and Shanghai to ride.
JM: Oh I am so glad. She had a lot of gifts, but she was very quiet.
GB: Oh extremely quiet. Now she is married to a Navy fighter pilot and I think they are in Washington State. She has one or more kids. I keep up on her through Facebook. Samantha Magowan…
JM: I don’t know her; she probably was in private school.
GB: She probably was at IMS. Her mother Carol is still around; her father remarried and is living in Santa Fe, Arizona.
JM: How does our local pony club fit into the next step? Is it district or regional?
GB: The next step is regional.
JM: What is the region?
GB: Lakeville Pony Club is a member of the New York/Upper Connecticut Region which includes all of Ct. except for Fairfield County and Duchess, Columbia, Ulster, Green, and Sullivan, all the ones above Rockland really. Orange is part of it too.
JM: Then do we go to national?
GB: Then you go to National.
JM: That is the whole United States.
GB: Yes the whole United States, including the islands.
JM: Then International?
GB: Then there is International but that is a really loose confederation of pony clubs. There are probably about 15 of them.
JM: What is the Inter Pacific Exchange?
GB: That’s a thing where several of the larger pony clubs send their members, basically a team of 5, to a country for a couple of weeks of competition and sightseeing. The distances are greatest, but there is a fox hunting exchange with the UK and Ireland. There is a mounted games exchange.
JM: Steeple chasing?
GB: No, that is gone since the long form of events has disappeared, steeple chasing isn’t there anymore.
JM: In our previous interview, you mentioned that you had nominated Anne Tuttle Roller for an award. What was it?
GB: I nominated her for the Academy of Achievement. (Her bio for that award is in the file on Pony Club Ed.) She was a member of the class of 2004 and it is people who came from pony club who achieved significant prominence in the outside world. She did in her video-journalism about car racing which is different.
JM: What I would like if you can do it in laymen’s terms is ratings.
GB: the idea of a rating in pony club is to demonstrate what you have learned, remembering that pony club started so that kids could have good riding lessons if they could not afford it. This is the back door to my judging qualifications. After World War I decimated the male upper class in the UK, the organized hunts found that they were losing the younger people. When they did happen to get a young lad from the town, he rode like he had not been taught. He rode rough. That was it; it was to try to put some class onto some people who were filling on the hunts in the 1920’s. The pony club in the UK really started in either 1928 or 1929 expressly for that purpose. The ratings simply were a marker for demonstrating how people were progressing in terms of what they had learned.
JM: Were you a judge?
GB: I was Horse Management Judge.
JM: Tell me what that is.
GB: One of the tenets of pony club is that care of the horse is probably about as important as winning the match. If you can’t care for horse, you can’t really call yourself a horseman.
JM: It is more than just sitting on the horse and riding.
GB: Absolutely, it is also pedagogically very useful and maturation of young ladies. It is loaded with teachable moments. Horse management at pony club competitions, and I believe there are the only competitions in the horse world where horse management is judged, is definitely judged. Considering that pony club came to the United States with a juncture of two things: namely organized hunts here were running well with new riders, and the horse cavalry was going out of business very rapidly. Horse management here became a bit more prominent and a bit more hard-nosed than it was in the UK. You could get away with a lot of things. Your tack turnout didn’t have to be nearly as spiffy in the UK as it does in the US.
JM: Yeah, we were more spit and polished than they.
GB: The fact is you have all these retired cavalry officers who were “This is the way it is!”
JM: There is nothing wrong with that.
GB: No, there isn’t but as a horseman I was the first horse management organizer of the New York/Upper Connecticut region. Horse Management had become a little bit disorganized, not to say chaotic. A few people were drawn to it because it let them strut around with a clipboard and make kids cry. You have seen the type. There were a fair number of people who were doing that. My job was to put together a group of horse management judges for our competitions who were suitable and who wouldn’t make the kids cry.
JM: I didn’t ask you what is the age range of these children.
GB: Typically they start about 9, but I have seen pony clubbers as young as 5. They recently bumped the maximum age to 25 which I think was sort of fatuous because of mothers’ crying that their daughter was so close to being an A but she couldn’t possibly do it this year. She was only 21, turning 22. The maximum age used to be 22. Before that it used to be 18. Our society has prolonged adolescence. The bulk of the kids now are female between the ages of 9 to 14. Statistically it is almost a standard distribution and it tails out at either end. Finding people and training them to be horse management judges was difficult; what I discovered was that most important was their ability to deal with kids. When you teach the judges what they need to know about horses, they also need to work with kids.
JM: You can do all of the educational degrees in the world, but if you can’t put it across so that someone understands it, you are not a teacher.
GB: If you can’t handle kids…
JM: You have to be able to; they are all different and they have different temperaments and they have different learning styles. Some you can bellow at, and others you have to be very gentle. You have to know that difference.
GB: You also have to be able to motivate them because what do you do if they throw down the reins and stalk off. You are left with a hot horse and dirty tack and no place to put it. I have seen it happen, especially when you have had a real mismatch in personalities between the judge and the kid who is then marching off in tears.
JM: Then what does Horse management encompass other than tack?
GB: Tack, being able to care for your horse, when you got thru the whole curriculum, you know about as much as an associate degree in equine science.
JM: When I was doing Linda Bushnell, she said that she gave the kids written tests.
GB: Oh absolutely
JM: This was something that I thought was unusual.
GB: Written tests are still part of the rally competition; they don’t cover just horse management, they also cover the other aspects of the competition.
JM: I thought that was fascinating. I knew nothing about Pony club except the kids would come in and talk about it. I thought that was quite impressive.
GB: It is quite true. Virtually everything is a team competition. There are very few individual awards. With teams it makes adolescent girls work together, even if they don’t like each other.
JM: What a good lesson. You can work with them, but you don’t have to like them.
GB: That is absolutely right.
JM: It used to be called cooperative learning when I was teaching.
GB: I have walked into so many barns and seen one girl sitting sobbing in the feed stall while the other girls are giggling in the tack stall.
JM: Been there and done that one. Some things don’t change do they?
GB: They really don’t. Trying to get them to work as a team under those circumstances is hard.
JM: I was asking you about horse care management and what it entails.
GB: You need to know the anatomy and physiology of the horse which includes all the bells and whistles like what they eat, what they can’t eat, how you transport them, how you groom them, how you tell if they are sick, how you nurse them back to health when they are not healthy, when to call the vet, when not to call the vet and how to help the vet. It is really a huge amount of stuff. As well as being able to stand up there with your horse (winner perfect) and properly held and say, “My name is Lauren Laitala. I am a C1 rated Pony Club member of the Lakeville Pony Club of the New York/Upper Connecticut. This is my horse Blah!”
JM: So there is a presence that has to be a part of this, too.
GB: Yep. It is a pretty damn comprehensive program. One thing that I really came to realize is that the kid, who tries to do Pony Club and is doing something else, is probably doing a bad job of one of them.
JM: it is really intensive and they must focus on it.
GB: It is like a lot of things in life that you can’t really do justice to too many things at once.
JM: It is not superficial.
G: It is not like being a weekend painter, that horse is there 24/7.
JM: It is a wonderful lesson in responsibility.
GB: Oh it is.
JM: Because it is your responsibility, and if you do the feeding and the watering, you have a sick horse.
GB: That is absolutely right or if you run a horse too hard or don’t tend to it or look in its mouth to see if it has got any spikes growing on its teeth or if you don’t make sure that the bit fits properly.
JM: Your daughter being in Pony Club for 6 years,
GB: Actually she was in for 7, but after that she decided she didn’t like somebody so she did her last year as a member of Millbrook.
JM: Did you continue with Pony club after she left?
GB: With glee! It is all about OPC (other people’s children). It is so much easier and so much more productive to deal with other people’s children than with your own. I will tell you that. As a matter of fact, when my daughter graciously decided to get out of it, my career took off. I became a DC and then I became the first manager and organizer in the region, then I became a Horse Management Judge, then I found myself on national committees and doing that kind of thing, and loving every minute of it. I judged at nationals in 1994 thru 1998. I finally split with pony club in 1999 because they said, “Geoff, we insist that you become not just the chief Horse Management Judge which I did not want to do because chiefs see kids only when they are crying because they got penalized, but a super chief which meant that I would have chiefs reporting to me which meant that I would see only crying kids and raging parents.”
JM: Oh something like teaching!
GB: As a result I said no, I won’t go to national as chief. I will only go as a judge. They said well then think it over. I did and I said no I still won’t. That was pretty much it.
JM: I am going to bring you back to local pony club. In the Lakeville Pony Club what changes have you seen over the time?
GB: As I say when I came into the picture, it was the kind of club where you had to have your own horse. You had to have access to your own horse. It was an era in pony club of nationally when the ethos was that pony club produced a happy rider on a happy back yard pony. The crazy idea was that kids had ponies in their back yards. There was no particular pressure to get a club horse. The club did have a horse and leased it out full time. You would lease and pay for board and everything else. They only thing you were saving was the cost of the horse itself. That was an obstacle although I will tell you that Lakeville did very well in those days. I can remember one set of eventing rallies that we won all three divisions. I think we swept all the ribbons. I know we won all the firsts; first in riding, first in horse management and all 6 blues. The subsequent year we were hated and feared!
JM: That was something to strive for!
GB: My God they were impossible while they were hated and feared! Oh she’s from Lakeville! What has happened since then is and it has been born out in national pony club, pony club started a few years ago having things called riding centers which is pretty much what Lakeville Pony Club looks like now where it was a riding facility that had pony club.
JM: Yes, I went through that with Linda.
GB: As opposed to an organized hunt that had a pony club. That is a very important thing. I realize that Lakeville Pony Club was way out of step with the regiment as I became more involved with the whole pony club picture. They were the coming thing.
JM: They were ahead of the trend.
GB; That is absolutely right and now Linda has taken a much more active role in making sure she rounds up rides for kids. In the old days it just wasn’t done. It was the kid’s problem; that was the sort of thing that cost Karen Poglich. That has been one very positive change. A less positive change is that I think Lakeville has become much more insular and much less involved on a regional level than they were. I think this year they are sending a bunch of kids to the regional rallies. There were several years when they didn’t send any kids to any rallies anywhere.
JM: In talking with Linda she said that the numbers have decreased and the interest because there are so many other things going on. Too many choices again
GB: I think you are right. You really can’t do a good job if you try to do two things like pony club. I think Linda is spot on. I know back in the day they didn’t even let Sidney join when we were still living in New York City because we were only here on weekends.
JM: That is right; you have to be full time.
GB; When Sidney went to Hotchkiss, the reason she did not go to Indian Mountain and went to Salisbury Central when she came up here was because she could be with her horse every day. The reason she went to Hotchkiss was because at least two of the three seasons she could take Horse as a sport and be in the barn. That is essentially is the way you have to do it if you are a serious equestrian athlete.
JM: I am going to close it down quite shortly. I am going to ask you for additions, things I haven’t covered?
GB: Because the question will probably come up about who this guy is and why he is talking about it, I will point to something that I won and I will explain why I won it and why it doesn’t mean that I know anything. That is the USPC Founders Award which I got in 2011. I look at the names of the other people on this list and I say, “My God, I do not belong in that company.”
JM: Well, they thought you I did.
GB: I know what I produced. I know what I did and I know why I got the award. That was because I had a lot to do with introducing the Internet to pony club nationally and #2 because I had a significant effect in the way the Horse Management at rallies is managed. I reoriented it toward what it had become in terms of taking off points. There were four things I affected: 1. Safety, 2. Welfare of the rider 3. Learning and 4. Taking off points. I pushed the scoring aspect of it way down. A rally should be a learning experience in terms of horse management, not just a show of what you know experience. I developed that kind of an innovation.
JM: You brought it into focus that there was a purpose. It was not just a social gathering.
GB: Absolutely and also it was not all about amusing the kids. It became necessary that we have a rationale for the whole thing so I wrote it. It found its way into the horse management handbook and I still get quoted. I guess I am happy about that.
JM: What is the rational?
GB: One of the rationales is that we need to keep kids at a time when there are many other activities you do not keep kids in pony club by verbally abusing them. There was a certain amount of that. That was the unfortunate tale on the cavalry horse issue.
JM: But it stands to reason because they were used to dealing with men, not little kids and there is a difference. So it is not illogical. Things have changed for the better. There was a lot of “just suck it up.’ It has changed a lot for the better because there is more understanding of the rationale. There is more understanding of the purpose and the need to do things a certain way rather than just “I told you to do it this way, just do it!”
GB: Exactly, that is exactly right. On Saturday I am going down and help set up a dressage ring in Kent. That is the only thing I am doing this year I think.
JM: Wonderful. I am going to leave it there because I am going to ask you to come back for a third interview on something entirely different. Thank you so much for your information on the adult part of pony club. I am very grateful.
GB: Thank you. I always enjoy this.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068