Very Serious About Horsing Around
Elisabeth Clagett began riding at the age of two, began showing at age four in leadline, and now, riding Snickers, she spends every day she can at the barn at Pond View Farm in West Tisbury. Pond View has long been a show barn on the Island, teaching and taking many riders to Island and off-Island shows.
"She started at two years old on a ten-minute ride, and she just would not leave the barn," says Andrea Clagett, Elisabeth's mother. "She still cannot leave the barn."
Horseback riding has long been a part of Island history. According to "History of Martha's Vineyard," by Charles Edward Banks, M.D., domesticated horses have been on the Island since 1665. And, according to the Dukes County Intelligencer, Oak Bluffs was home to a racetrack in the 1800s.
For the past several decades, the Martha's Vineyard Horse Council (MVHC) has maintained a strong year-round presence on the Island, hosting shows and various horse-related events that draw numerous competitors of all ages. For many, riding in the shows has become a summer highlight of living on the Island.
Riding over to her parents after taking Snickers over a jump, Elisabeth announces, "I really just want to ride forever and ever and ever."
Callie Grunwald is a six-year-old who is just learning to canter on the pony she leases, a dapple-grey named Crystal. She showed in leadline last year, and won second place in her first walk/trot class this past June. Her mother Stephanie watches her lesson from the picnic table beside the outdoor ring, recalling the three or four times she has fallen off.
"She's very serious. She's just learning to canter, and this is the first time she hasn't fallen off," says Ms. Grunwald, a summer resident from New York City. "Three years ago I brought her for pony rides. After three or four rides, she didn't want to come anymore. She wanted to ride like the big girls."
Pond View Farm prides itself on its older girls who act as mentors for the younger riders. From beginner status, they have grown into excellent riders and responsible young adults. For each show, an older girl is assigned to a younger girl, and they help with everything from exercising their ponies to putting bows in the girls' hair.
"The nice thing about the younger girls being here is that they get to watch the older girls. They are such good role models," says Ms. Clagett.
"It's cool to have them ask me things," says Olivia Hart, one of the experienced riders at Pond View. "Now I'm one of the big kids that I used to look up to."
On a given Saturday in the summer, the barn is bustling with activity: Kids taking lessons, parents watching, and the older girls giving pony rides in between their daily barn chores. But despite the whirlwind, the barn has a solid reputation.
"The organization, the management, the spirit, it completely spoils you for anything else," says Ms. Clagett, whose daughter rides once a week in the winter in Sherborn. "I like being around to watch. It's the kind of thing you can never spend too much time on - watching your child ride a horse - especially if they are proud of what they're doing."
Barn Manager Tracey Amaral has worked at Pond View for eight years and has watched many riders grow from leadline to jumper classes, from local shows to off-Island events. This year, she has several riders showing off-Island - two in Kentucky and many on the Cape. The barn has approximately 20 horses and 30 or so riders in the summer months, and plenty of help from the eager riders.
"She'll spend the whole day at the barn," says Ms. Grunwald about Callie. "She and her friend will each wheel one side of the wheelbarrow. And these ponies are the cleanest ponies; they wash them every five minutes."
"She's at the barn every day, by her choice. If you ask her what she wants to do today, it's go to the barn."
The next MVHC show is a hunter show on Sunday, July 20, at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. For more information, call 508-696-8434.