The Bunyip and District Pony Club members are a resilient bunch and despite the challenges of the past two years, they’ve managed to persevere. When they returned to their grounds recently and found them in disarray (with their annual camp fast approaching), they kicked into gear to make sure it would be a camp to remember – and that they did. GABRIELLA PAYNE reports.
They say if you fall off a horse, to dust yourself off and get back on.
Over the past two pandemic ridden years, that saying has perhaps never rung more true – particularly for the Bunyip and District Pony Club members.
With restrictions easing, the local horse lovers couldn’t wait to get back to their grounds on Pound Road, especially as their annual fundraising camp was fast approaching – but upon arriving late last year, they discovered it overgrown and unusable.
“When we were allowed back in after lockdown, we came back and it was like nobody loved it at all,” Wendy Smith, the club’s treasurer, said on re-entering the grounds.
Having been running for 57 years now, the Bunyip and District Pony Club used to be responsible for maintaining the grounds themselves – but recently, this duty was handed over to the Cardinia Shire Council – something they seem to have overlooked in all the chaos of the past year.
“I believe it was an honest mistake, but we were desperate,” Ms Smith said.
“We weren’t allowed to do the maintenance ourselves – we can only do hand weeding now and anything that doesn’t involve mechanics,” she explained.
“But where we had kept it in very good condition, it was now in very poor condition.”
With overgrown grass almost reaching waist height and fallen trees blocking most courses, the pony club members knew a lot of work would need to be done in order to get their camp up and running in early January – so they kicked into gear to make things happen.
“I approached the council and explained to them that we had our three day camp coming up, which basically sets our club up for the whole 12 months,” Ms Smith said.
“We have very low membership fees because this event generates almost all our dollars – so it’s very important that this happens, and it happens well.”
After calling the Cardinia Shire Council and explaining their situation, one employee went “above and beyond” for the club, to ensure the works were done in a matter of weeks in order to allow the camp to go ahead as per usual.
“I contacted the council and we got onto a Cameron Miller, and he has been nothing short of fantastic for us, he’s had our back completely,” Ms Smith said.
The president of the Bunyip and District Pony Club, Angela McPhee, echoed what Ms Smith had to say.
“It was touch and go for a few weeks there,” Ms McPhee said, “but they came and looked after us.”
“The grounds weren’t usable in late December because of the amount of fallen trees, but after speaking with Cameron Miller, the council came and cleared the trees, they mulched it, they did so much – it was unbelievable,” Ms Smith said.
“Ang (Angela) and I walked out the back and we nearly had a heart attack!” – for good reasons, Ms Smith explained.
Thanks to the efforts of the dedicated club and the council workers who heard their plea, the Pound Road grounds were cleared up and returned to their former glory – just in time for the 15th annual pony club camp, which welcomed equestrian enthusiasts from around the state last week.
“We’re just so relieved this was able to go ahead,” Ms McPhee said.
Despite the current Covid outbreak, about 65 young horse and pony riders were in attendance at the three day camp, learning and showcasing their skills in a range of disciplines.
“We focus on the three disciplines, which is dressage, show jumping and cross country, and we have a lot of fun along the way,” Ms McPhee said.
Both Ms McPhee and Ms Smith said that the 2022 camp was already proving to have been a huge success, and they expressed their gratitude to the council for making this happen, as without the much-needed maintenance works, it would not have been possible.
They said they hoped that in future, maintenance would be done regularly and not something they would have to remind the council of – but regardless, it was a successful event and they couldn’t wait to gallop into the next one.