Linda Bushnell Interview:
This is file 73. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Linda Bushnell on Pony Club. Today’s date is April 22, 2014. We’ll start with the genealogical stuff.
JM:What is your name?
LB:My name is Linda Jayne Bushnell.
JM:Do you have siblings?
LB:Yes, I do. I have a sister named Patricia Stevens and a brother Frederick William Bushnell.
JM:What were your parents’ names?
LB:George Bushnell and my mother was Delores Fitting Bushnell.
JM:What is your educational background?
LB:I went to college for 2 years.
JM:Did you go to Salisbury central?
LB:Oh yes, I went to Salisbury Central School and then I went on to Housatonic Valley Regional High School where I graduated. Then I went off to a two year school in New York State.
JM:Now you are going to talk about Pony Club. When did you start in Pony club?
LB:I started riding when I was 3. Pony Club started in 1955, and as soon as they would let me, then I was in the Pony Club. I joined the Pony Club.
JM:Who was running it at that time?
LB:A nice lady by the name of Lucy Drummond.
JM:Where was her Pony club located at that time?
LB:It was up the Undermountain Road on route 41 in Salisbury. The address was 485 Undermountain Road.
JM:How long were you in her Pony Club?
LB:I was in her Pony club until she died.2.
JM:and then what happened?
LB:Well, I guess I should go back. You were allowed to be in it up to the age of 18. So I was in the Pony Club up until the age of 18. Then my status changed to being an instructor, where I would do that before during the years, but then I continued on with the Pony Club teaching them until Lucy died. My partner Susan Reich and I, her married name is Pelletier; we moved to up near Wells Hill Road on Race Track Road. We started our own business; the Lakeville Pony Club came with us and so that was the new home of the Pony Club.
JM:Who owned the property that you were using at that time on Race Track Road?
LB:Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Belcher had the major property. Mrs. Ryan Baroody allowed us to use her facility across the road.
JM:So you had two benefactors that were letting you use their property.
JM;How many horses did you have at that time?
LB:At that time we had a very small number because it was a very small little farm that we started so I think there was a total of maybe 17 horses.
JM:How many pupils did you have?
LB:We probably had in the Pony Club it was a large club at that time. We probably had 18-20 which was considered a large club at the time. They came with us and we continued there.
JM:Then you moved again I think.
LB:Yes, Mr.& Mrs. Benjamin Belcher loved what we were doing down at the lower farm, and asked us if we would like to move and bring everything up to route 112 where the major barn was? They renovated the barn and build an indoor arena for us and so the Lakeville Pony Club continued up there.
JM:Where is it now?
LB:Now it is back on the Undermountain road, not quite in the same place as it was originally.
JM:A little closer to town.
LB:A little closer to town so it is 339 Undermountain Road, the farm is Riga Meadow, an equestrian center. So it is sort of back where it started from or very close.
JM:You have a specific focus for Pony Club, something that you want the pupils to become.
LB:Yes, we have always from the time that I was a child in the Pony Club is that we have this nice philosophy of the older children always helping the younger children and bringing up that feeling of the mentoring and the teaching and being like a big sister or a nice family. We would always work together and that is one of those important things that I like about the Pony club in that we have still to this day try to continue it. It is the giving back; what you get, you give back. We try to continue that through the years.
JM:A little bit further on we’ll talk about rallies, but there is a specific focus when the children go to a rally which I also like and that is?
LB:That the children are on their own. It is done safely so they have people on the outside to observe but the children have to do it themselves. They have to be self- sufficient and independent so they come in and they take care of their horse. They do everything on their own which I think is just really amazing. It is a really good thing for children to learn.
JM:it is; it is necessary. Now who comes to Pony Club? Do you have both boys and girls?
LB:We have both boys and girls; it is 99% girls with a few boys here and there. It seems to be a girl’s sport these days. We have had boys and they have gone on and done really great things with horses and are businesses with horses so it is not that they don’t grow and stay with the horses. It tends to be mainly a girl’s sport.
JM:I remember when I was teaching 4th grade, all my girls were in Pony Club. Does it cost something to join?
LB:Yes, it cost about $100 to join the Pony Club.
JM:What is that money used for?
LB:It is dues to the National organization, insurance; there is a small portion that goes into the actual club itself, I think it is like $20 so it is not a lot of money.
JM:What kind of equipment do they have to have minimum?
LB:They have to have a helmet, an approved helmet, and they have to have a hard soled shoe with a heel. That is about all the equipment that they technically have to have.
JM:What do you do if a child wants to be in Pony club but doesn’t have the money?
LB:We have a scholarship fund. We have money that is set aside to help children that would like to be in the Pony Club but can’t. It has also been used to buy books, a helmet or things associated with the club, like clinics. Sometimes we send them off to educational things and we will help them do that.
JM:What is a rally?
LB:A rally is basically a test where children through different ratings, just like school first, second, third grade. They go through different ratings. Certain ratings, or almost every rating, they have an actual rally which tests the student or the person on their horse management which is working around a horse. It tests their actual knowledge which at that level tests the things they should know like colors, anatomy or things like that at the appropriate level. They have riding tests. They have a part that is flat which tests their ability to walk, trot, and canter to do what we call a dressage ride. So we have to execute this test and then there is a cross country phase which is only for the children that get to be at a D2 level and above. Little kids can’t be out in the cross country.
JM:This is for the older group then?
LB:This is for the older group, yes. They have a cross country phase which is natural jumps out in the outside; they have ditches, banks, logs and hedges and all that kind of stuff that you would find out in the hunt field. The third phase is called stadium jumping and that judges the handiness of the horse, tighter turns; they have to be a little handier and everything…
JM:a little more agile?
LB:Yeah because it is in a smaller area so they have to be able to turn and jump and turn and so on.
JM:How are the pupils judged, I mean who judges them? Are they judged by their peers or is there a professional judge for these things?
LB:There is a professional. In the Pony club they have national examiners, and regional examiners. What they do is at the regional phase they usually hire accredited Pony Club certified people to come in and actually run the rally. That is what ends up happening so they come in and judge the horse management and the written test of knowledge.
JM:I know nothing about horses so give me a clue on this one. Horse management means what?
LB:Handling the horse, working around the horse so at the level where you spend the night, they watch and make sure that you have hung the buckets up correctly, that you have watered your horse, that you go in and inspect the stall because it is a strange place where there aren’t nails or thing sticking up. Right from the moment you get there you actually go in and have to make sure your stall is safe. You set up your water bucket, then your feed buckets and all that stuff, make sure the door is latched. Throughout the day they make sure that you go in and clean your stall and if they drank too much water, you refill the bucket. They are really judging you on taking care of the horse.
JM:Taking care of the horse and its environment.
LB:Taking care of the horse and its environment. They watch as you work around the horse, the halter and leader on the horse, everything they keep an eye out to make sure that you are doing it correctly and safely.
JM:Then what is dressage?5.
LB:Dressage is a classical way of riding from way back when. At our level the judges watch the horse; it is a test that is given according to each level of the child. They are given an appropriate riding skill on the flat test to show that they can execute that level. So it is a very little for the younger kids who are a D1, they have a little dressage ride that is just a walk, trot. They come in and they show that they can do a straight line, execute nice turns, do circles, and walk a horse and pick up trots. They are judged on how the rider actually can ride their horse at a level in which their ability is tested. As they move on up through the different levels, the test get harder and harder and what they expect the pupil to do, and the horse’s ability and everything just becomes greater and greater as you move up the steps.
JM:Does the child stay with the same horse?
LB:No, most times. If you area D1 and you are doing a rally, you have one horse for that day, but through the different stages, you have to move on. Horses don’t do it all. Some horses can take a D1 rider and also take a B1 rider, but that is very rare. Usually you have different horses for different levels.
JM:Just like the children, you have to move from horse to horse to horse.
JM:What is show jumping?
LB:Show jumping was a little bit about the handiness and again depending on the level of the rider, the little kids can have an obstacle course where they come in and execute a turn and trot over a little pole and stuff like that. As it gets up to the upper levels they have fences up to 4 feet high depending on the level in which they are competing.
JM:Cross country would be?
LB:That is outside; that is natural. Exactly for lower level kids they figure that is too difficult. They need to be in an arena, some place safe. As they get older, they go outside and work outside; the tests become harder and harder.
JM;Do you give private lessons?
LB:I do; I give private lessons. The Pony club is slightly different because the Pony Club is in my and Jackie Merwin’s farm right now. We are partners. The Pony club rides out of our farm, and they have their own little home, their own room where they have their equipment, but they use the entire farm.
JM:That is normal.
JM:What is a Jerry Day?
LB:Ah, Jerry Day! About ten years ago Jackie Merwin and Tara Kelly (this had been a dream of mine too) but they basically got this to work that the Pony Club actually bought a horse. People gave money: they bought a horse and set up this system of supporting this horse for the children who could not have a horse, could not afford a horse or for whatever reason they were never going to have a horse. What we have done is we support this horse and the children who don’t have horses have a “Jerry Day”. Depending on how many children there are, they can have a “Jerry Day” one day a week or if there are not a lot of children in the winter, they may get three “Jerry Days” a week. It varies according to how many kids in the club and how many need a “Jerry Day”. For that day, Jerry is theirs, so they do have a horse.
JM:That is wonderful. How many horses, other than Jerry do you have now?
LB:Well, Jackie and I and the school that we use for teaching and for Pony club there are probably about 10, but at the whole farm we probably at this moment have about 50. We also have boarders which help pay for the operation.
JM:The term Pony club doesn’t mean that you have just small horses? The sizes go from what to what?
LB:No, we have all sizes from little ponies that are tiny 13 hands to the kids ride a big horse that is 17 hands high. So it is just a word, a term but it has nothing to do with the size of the horse.
JM:What is tack?
LB:Tack is the equipment that the children use for the horse, like bridles, saddles and girth strips, but it is basically the equipment.
JM:Do you have the children ride English or Western?
LB:It is English. There is talk in the national organization about maybe having Western someday, but it hasn’t happened yet.
JM:Do you have staff? I mean adult staff.
LB:Our farm has adult staff; the Pony club though always has an adult there. There is always an adult on Pony club days when the children come to ride or have Pony Club meetings. There is always an adult there giving a lecture on something whether it is how to bandage a horse or lunge a horse; there is always an adult there teaching the children or observing, parents do observe to make sure that everything is safe.
JM:You mentioned meetings. How many meetings do you have and how often do you have them?
LB:It varies from year to year. With our club, it depends on the officers and how many kids we have, and whether they are here for the summer or the winter. We usually meet once a week in the
winter on Saturday. That is when we do book work. In the summer time we will have mounted sessions, and again the number of mounted sessions depends on how many children there are, the levels and how many kids are around. It is kind of interesting in these days because right at the moment a lot of our local kids go away for the summer. It is kind of strange. It used to be the local kids were here and the outsiders came in. It is kind of funny because that was when I used to do all my Pony Clubbing and competing and everything I did. Now it really varies with the kids that are here; they are going off to camp. The mounted sessions vary according and it is different from year to year.
JM:Do the parents help out at all?
LB:The parent is there to observe. That is what they do. Our Pony Club is based on safety, independence, so that you do the work yourself, but safety is most important. There is always a parent on duty.
JM:I think you have an Annual Horse show coming up soon?
LB;We do. We have an Annual Horse Show that has been around as long as the club has been around. It will be in September. It used to be always in October on Columbus Day weekend, but every time that I can remember as a little kid it always snowed or sleeted or rained. The weather was cold and it was like year after year and finally I think about 10 years ago, we finally said, “This is enough!” The annual show that was always in October changed to September.
JM:Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t covered about Pony club?
LB:Just that I think it is a really great organization for teaching standards, working together, independence. I think it can teach all this and they have a friend, the horse. I was brought up where that horse was your best friend. You had a bad day you went and cried to your horse, or you did whatever you had a best friend no matter what.
JM:They were always accepting.
LB:They were always accepting. You could go off and ride it and play with it. Watching the kids grow up with the horses and the responsibility and things they did is just wonderful. Being an outsider and watching what I felt in other children. I think it is just a very important thing.
JM:It is important and I thank you so much, Linda, for doing this for me.
LB:You are welcome.