The Standards of Proficiency are reviewed every three years (depending on discipline cycle) and updated appropriately with any changes or clarification.  These Questions and Answers are regarding the regular review and update of the Standards that will be in effect, January 1, 2016.

Q. Why do we need new SOPs?

Q. When does my child need to know the new SOPs? Where do I find them?

Q. My child took a test in December last year. Does he/she have to re-take the same test (certification) again in January with the new SOPs?

Q. Are the new SOPs harder—or easier—than the previous SOPs?

Q. How will my child's coach or trainer or DC/CA or Examiner find out about the SOPs? If we have questions, where can we find answers?

Q. I sent some SOP recommendations to National Office, but I don't see those recommendations reflected in these final SOPs. Why not?

Q. Does my child have to jump the exact gymnastic grid or show jumping and/or cross country fences as described in the SOPs in order to "meet standard." What if the testing site doesn't have enough jumps or the variety or the weather or the terrain to evaluate the jumping and the open sections of the certification?

Q. My child rides in the Pony Hunters. They are really ready to "move up” but his pony is not capable of jumping the height required of the next certificate level. Why isn't there a "pony-track” that respects the limitations of our smaller mounts?

Q. My daughter really enjoys foxhunting, but doesn't spend much time in the dressage ring. Why does she need to demonstrate dressage riding skills in her certifications?

Q. One of the members of my club just lost her horse to lameness. We don't have many horses available for her to ride at her level and she is soon off to college and won't be riding at all. Why can't she continue her certifications through a Horse Management track, and then maybe go back to riding when she has time later?

Q. Can a mount be shared for a tests at the Local Level (D-1 to C-2)?

Q. I looked over the new SOPs and saw that you are still asking for shipping bandages at the different certificate levels.  Don't you know that no one uses shipping bandages anymore? Why do you still insist on them?

Q. At our Standards and Certification/Examiner Clinics this weekend, the issue of not having a horse present for the HM sections of a test  came up. Can you tell me why we cannot do this?

Q. We have a new Pony Club member that is riding probably at the C-1 level. We are planning a testing of her and several other new members.  Can she take the D-1 and D-2 together and then the D-3 or can she take all the D levels at the same time?

Q. For a retest at the D-2 level, does the candidate have until December 1st of the following year to retest?

Q. Why do we need new SOPs?
A. The SOPs are reviewed every three years, no matter what. A regular, periodic review is important to ensure that the SOPs are reflective of both the traditionally understood "good horsemanship and riding” as well as incorporating new knowledge and study in the field of equine sports and management. The SOP reviews should always include a holistic look from D1 through A levels to ensure proper flow of content understanding and skill achievements.

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Q. When does my child need to know the new SOPs? Where do I find them?
A. Each year we review a different track. The tracks are on a a three year cycle. You may find the SOP's on the USPC web site.

Q. My child took a test in December of last year. Does he/she have to re-take the same test (certification) again in January with the new SOPs?
A.  Any certification that uses the previous SOPs and happens BEFORE January 1st is still "good” for the next year. However, any testing that happens ON or AFTER January 1st, the new Standards must be used.

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Q. Are the new SOPs harder—or easier—than the previous SOPs?
A.  The SOPs are still just as hard—or easy—as they were before the review. The vast majority of the SOP changes simply clarify the skills USPC Examiners have always expected to see demonstrated by a  candidate. The review committee may realign some of the skills to different certificate levels (or deleted, or added certain skills) based on their own study of and experiences with the AVERAGE Pony Club member (age and ability) that normally completes each certificate level. (They also listened to input from DCs/CAs, RSs, instructor,coaches, parents and members.)

So—if the SOPs seem easier to you, then maybe you had harder expectations than necessary! Good for you! You might have a chance for "Exceed Standards” remarks on your testing day. However, if the SOPs seem harder to you, then it may be you didn't really understand what was always expected of you on that testing day. Use your flow charts, check off lists and curriculum reference sheet to help you prepare. Make sure you check with your DC/CA, coach, RIC, or contact instruction@ponyclub.org with your questions.

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Q. How will my child's coach or trainer or DC/CA or Examiner find out about the SOPs? If we have questions, where can we find answers?
A. If you are reading this, you have the information to share with your child's support team. If  you have questions, contact instruction@ponyclub.org. In addition, your RS, DC/CA, and RIC will get a notice on their USPC Digests alerting them to the changes. Finally, your child's Examiner should be getting the new SOPs either from the USPC web site at www.ponyclub.org or from the organizer of the testing. (To be sure, take a copy of the test sheet and the SOP with you to the testing. A downloaded copy from the web is just fine.) Your Region's Standards and Certifications Clinics or Seminars will be helpful as well.

Q. I sent some SOP recommendations to National Office, but I don't see those recommendations reflected in these final SOPs. Why not?
A. The Standards and Curriculum Committee along with other Instruction committees review EVERY input received, but paid special attention to the comments and recommendations from the parents and instructor-coaches because YOU are the closest to the most important person at any testing—the member! Many of the recommendations are included in the final SOP revision. However, some recommendations reflected a local or regional practice that was not necessarily relevant to other regions and clubs or centers, or reflected a local demographic that was not seen nation-wide. As an example, the review team did NOT include in the final SOPs a recommendation to use a particular term because the usage of that vocabulary was unique to a region. In another example, the team decided against a recommendation to increase the skill expectations of D level members. The recommender indicated her local demographic included several teenage D members who found the D-level expectations "too easy.” However, the review team determined that the AVERAGE D member was NOT a teen and, therefore, any recommendation to significantly increase riding or horse management expectations of D members was not necessary.

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Q. Does my child have to jump the exact gymnastic grid or show jumping and/or cross country fences as described in the SOPs in order to "meet standard” in the certification?  What if the testing site doesn't have enough jumps or the variety or the weather or the terrain to evaluate the jumping and the open sections of the testing?
A. This is a very frequently asked question! Here is the short answer: Yes, each Pony Club member must demonstrate successful mastery of the SOPs AS WRITTEN or diagrammed in order to "meet standard” at that certificate level.

For Club/Center Level certifications, it is always the DC/CA's responsibility to ensure the test site for their testings have the appropriate facilities (e.g., rings, jumps, open space) for each testing candidate to demonstrate their proficiency in each section of the standard. (Some DC/CAs may use a testing Organizer, or combine testings within a Region and use a regional testing Organizer. However it is managed, it is still ultimately the DC/CA's responsibility.) (For Upper Level tests, it is usually a regionally-designated test Organizer that must ensure the test site is appropriate for the level of the testings.) In addition to the DC/CA and/or Organizer, the Examiner(s) must verify the appropriateness of the test site for the certification level(s) for safety and adequacy BEFORE beginning the testing.

In general, Club/Center level certifications are expected to be completed in one day. However, depending on the certification level, there is some latitude to extend a testing over several days in extreme circumstances and in coordination with the Examiner(s), the Organizer and/or DC/CA, and the members and members' "support team.” As an example, foul weather (extreme heat, cold, thunderstorms, soggy or hard ground) may compromise a perfectly appropriate test site, making it unsafe to conduct or continue a testing as planned. The Examiner(s), ALWAYS responsible for the candidates' safety in the testing environment, may make slight modifications in order to complete the certificate. However, the Examiner(s) must also be satisfied the candidates demonstrated proficiency—or not—prior to assigning a "MS” or "DNMS.”

Again, under no circumstances should anyone pre-plan a certification with the intention of shortchanging the testing opportunity!

For further questions, contact the D-1-C-2 Curriculum Committee (for Club/Center Level SOPs and certifications) or the Testing Committee (for Upper Level SOPs and certifications) through the Instruction Director.


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Q. My child rides in the Pony Hunters. They are really ready to "move up” but his pony is not capable of jumping the height required of the next level. Why isn't there a "pony-track” that respects the limitations of our smaller mounts?
A. We LOVE ponies! Just look at our organizational name! Certifications are a graduated curriculum based on the riders' ability. We need to see the rider ride over the fences at the different heights given in the SOPs. Why? Because there is a difference in the bio-mechanics of the rider in the jump as the height increases; because there is an expectation that eventually that rider will move to another mount (and it just might be a horse); because if the rider continues to progress through the certification levels, he/she WILL have to ride a different mount (at C-3, during switch horse section) at a solid height and we need to see that skill developing at D-3, then C-1, then C-2…and beyond. Each certification level builds on the skills demonstrated at previous levels.

Q. My daughter really enjoys foxhunting, but doesn't spend much time in the dressage ring. Why does she need to demonstrate dressage riding skills in her certifications?
A. Foxhunting skills are the traditional base of our organization—and our SOPs. So—if you look at the SOPs closely, you will notice that the expectations are to demonstrate riding skills "on the flat,” not necessarily "dressage.” However, the skills are the same. Ask your daughter just how handy it is to know how to rein-back, or leg-yield, when she is riding with the Field!

Yes, by the time your daughter gets to the Upper Levels, there is an expectation that she is conversant in basic dressage theory and capable of demonstrating very simple dressage movements, depending on the certification level. However, in the Traditional track (in which your daughter is likely to chose to progress) the intent is to develop the well-rounded rider and horseman, well-grounded in all the disciplines.

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Q. One of the members of my club just lost her horse to lameness. We don't have many horses available for her to ride at her level and she is soon off to college and won't be riding at all. Why can't she continue her certifications through a Horse Management track, and then maybe go back to riding when she has time later?
A. Good question! As of April 1, 2010, the Horse Management track is available for your member and any member after they successfully pass their D-1 certification.


Q. Can a mount be shared for a tests at the Local Level (D-1 to C-2)?
A. Yes, sharing of mounts is common especially in centers and situations where the mount is well conditioned and the members have previously ridden the mount. More detail about sharing a mount is on each Standards of Proficiency in the 'information to candidates' section.

And—as always—if you still have questions, contact the Instruction Director!

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Q. I looked over the new SOPs and saw that you are still asking for shipping bandages at the different levels! Don't you know that no one uses shipping bandages anymore? Why do you still insist on them?
A. You have an excellent point. Today, very few people use shipping bandages as we have taught over these many years. Frankly, there are some great products on the current market that can do the protection and support function that we expect of a good shipping bandage. So why do we still want to see our members learn and demonstrate the skill for a proper shipping bandage?

Actually, we have quite a few really good reasons. First, those neat products on the market are rather expensive. We think it very important for our members to have the skill to provide the appropriate protection and support for their mounts without spending a great deal of money. Second, the shipping bandages are tailored to individual horse. Third, we have many shipping bandage advocates with unfortunate first-hand experiences of tragic trailer accidents where the shipping bandage (or lack of it) made the difference in the outcome of the event. Finally, we believe the skill and knowledge required for a shipping bandage are necessary to master before progressing to the specialty wraps expected of the H/H-HM/H-A. In other words, if you understand the theory and have the coordination to apply a shipping bandage well, then it is easier to grasp the theory and techniques of a hock wrap!

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Q. At our Standards and Certification/Examiner Clinics this weekend, the issue of not having a horse present for the HM sections of a test came up. Can you tell me why we cannot do this?

A. It had been decided that we would not take the horse out of Horse Management testing at this time. However, in the event that it is logistically impossible to have a horse present at the Horse management phase of testing (i.e. inclement weather) the HM test can go on with a notation on the test sheet. With the new generous retest policy those sections requiring a horse can be tested later with the mounted sections. The candidate does not earn the HM certification until those sections have been successfully completed. The DC/CA must keep control of the test sheet so that is can be completed at the later date.

Q. We have a new Pony Club member that is riding probably at the C-1 level. We are planning a testing of her and several other new members.  Can she take the D-1 and D-2 together and then the D-3 or can she take all the D levels at the same time?

A. The preference is to do the D-1/D-2 and then the D-3, even if it is in quick succession. We do this for a couple of reasons: 1) the PC testing is more than just riding and unless they have been involved in Pony Club for awhile that level of Horse Management skills is lost on them, 2) we have never seen these members in a testing situation and if they were to get test anxiety and not perform at the anticipated level we have not set them up for success, 3) as you move up the levels the degree of difficulty between the levels gets progressively harder and that reality sometimes gets lost on the member if one was to test all three levels at once , and 4) other factors that come to mind is Rally participation (what level do they really want to be if they are new to PC?) and there is a 3 month Record Book required at the D-3.  That being said, there is no reason the testing process can't be accelerated if it is warranted. The D-1/D-2 level test can be administered by an appropriate individual (I refer you to the testing guide) and then a club level testing can accommodate the D-3 testing.

Q. For a retest at the D-2 level, does the candidate have until December 1st of the following year to retest?

A.  Yes, all Local Level retests, (if the member qualifies)  have until December 1st of the following year to retest.