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Caring For A Horse | Riding Ponies: Five Valleys Pony Club Teaches Members Safety And Horse Skills

Posted By: JR

Despite an outbreak of equine herpes that has canceled allupcoming competitions, the young women of the Five Valleys PonyClub were still out riding and practicing horse care all day onWednesday at Glen Holly Farm north of Hamilton.

“We were supposed to compete this weekend in Billings, but theequine herpes has stopped that,” said the club’s districtcommissioner and head instructor, Wendy Livoni. “There’s nothing wecan do about that. But we’re still practicing as often as we canwhen the weather cooperates.”

Livoni spent the day in the middle of her riding arena, watching asa group of young riders slowly circled the ring on their ponies,and occasionally shouting out commands and encouragement.

“Look at your trot, look at your next jump!” she shouted as riderSierra Lopez approached a jump.

The club currently has around 14 members, many of which are stillin elementary school. Older riders like Olivia Livoni and HayleyBramwell volunteer their time to teach the younger girls theropes.

“There’s always something to learn,” said Bramwell. “When I firstjoined the club when I was 14, I thought I knew a lot. But I havelearned so much since I joined. Horse care, course management,riding skills, everything. You have to be very involved. You can’tjust ride once a week.”

The FVPC took the equestrian world by storm in 2009 when theyclaimed the Pacific Coast championships against strong competitionfrom very wealthy pony clubs that had never heard of the girls fromthe Bitterroot.

“They thought that Montana girls just chased cows around on our cowponies all day,” Bramwell said.

Livoni said that the Montana team was so small that they had tojoin up with a pair of sisters from Spokane just to field a team,but they shocked everybody.

“Other teams were coming in with their $10,000 ponies,” sherecalled. “And we were competing with our backyard Montana ponies.Montana is a joke to some equestrian riders. We were there just tohave fun, but when we won, that was the best part. We showedthem.”

Her mother, instructor Wendy Livoni, said the purpose of the clubis to teach safety and riding skills that the girls, and boys ifthey want to join, can use their entire lives.

“It teaches them to be independent,” she said. “They become awell-rounded horse person, and they learn every aspect of it, fromcaring for a horse to grooming, to cleaning out the stable.”

Livoni, who learned a more traditional riding style growing up inSwitzerland, said she encourages anyone who wants to learn more tojoin the club. Girls and boys can stay in the club until they are24.

Virginia De Leo, whose daughter Madeline was out riding onWednesday, said the club is more of a way of life.

“It’s great because there’s a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “Thesegirls are like sisters.”

Seven-year-old Isabelle Harvey of Victor just joined the club thisyear. She was out riding on Wednesday, learning the basics. Harveymakes it pretty clear why she joined the club.

“Because I like horses,” she said. “And it’s fun.”

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com .

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