Eugene Pony Club gallops into members’ hearts

Eugene Pony Club is a hobby that’s passed down through generations. 

Dally Pimentel, 12, is one of four sisters from Junction City who has taken part in Pony Club. Having started riding since she was five years old, Pimentel said she enjoys the club because she can ride with friends, as well as take part in games and monthly mini shows. 

Her horse, Wishes, is a quarter horse mix, and Pimentel inherited her from her sisters.

“She’s a crazy psycho who wants to run,” she said about Wishes.

Wishes is also a confidant for Pimentel, and that’s one of her favorite things about horses.

“They don’t talk and I can tell them anything,” she said, “and when I’m mad, I just go riding.”

The Eugene Pony Club started 60 years ago, and meets on Mondays every week from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Oregon Horse Center on Prairie Road. 

The club runs from September to June, and dues are $40 a month. The organization welcomes children from the ages 5 to 18, and they hail from Eugene and its surrounding areas, including Junction City, Fern Ridge, Brownsville, and Crescent Hill. At the moment, there are 20 members in the club.

Eugene Pony Club hosts mini-shows monthly, and in June there’s a larger show open to the community outside of the Pony Club where anyone can compete. 

(Left) Tammy Hansey, one of the club’s five instructors, and Summer Roat, the club’s president pose with ponies. Both women have been part of the club for generations.

Summer Roat, president of the club, has been involved with the organization for over 20 years. She grew up in the Eugene Pony Club, and her father was president at one point as well; now one of her children rides there.

“I grew up with horses and it’s a good way to grow up,” she said. “(The members) learn responsibility and how to care for a living thing. There’s a horse community that’s great. (The club) is close knit and helps form relationships. It’s important to build those relationships, to teach the kids about sportsmanship, (and) to care for each other and their horses.”

Roat said that she’s still close with the friends she made in Pony Club growing up, and the club is her favorite childhood memory.

The club has evolved over the years to involve more members in the horse community, not just children with ponies. Membership has ebbed and flowed through the years, and right now it’s a smaller group. Roat said that’s due to an influx of other horse groups, like equestrian teams at high schools, or the struggle in trying to find and afford ponies. 

Tammy Hansey, one of the club’s five instructors, said that safety is the main focus of the club. The horses have to be socialized before joining, and the instructors are there to help prepare the members. 

Hansey and her husband both rode in the club when they were younger, as did their children. Now, Hansey’s grandson is involved in the club.

Dave Pimentel, Dally Pimentel’s father, said the club teaches all the basics, including proper riding etiquette. 

“Instructors evaluate the level as the students come in, and teach them how to ride with a group,” he said. “In some cases, the kids learn more from each other. No matter where the kid’s skill level is, if they can stop, go, and take steps — the club will teach them the rest.”

Hansey said the instructors are “amazing” and help prepare younger members for 4-H and equestrian teams.

“They hit the ground running,” she said.

She also said she wants to pique the children’s interest when they’re young, to keep them busy when they reach teenage years. 

“(Members become) one with the horse, and it’s the best therapy,” she said. “(Horses) love unconditionally and they don’t cyberbully.”

Roat agreed, calling horses gentle creatures. She said that loving horses is, “In my soul.”

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