Sport

Benalla to host National Pony Club Championships in 2021

By Meg Saultry

In a major coup for the region, Benalla has been announced as the location for the 2021 National Pony Club Championships.

Benalla Equestrian Reserve will be a bustling epicentre from September 26 to October 2, 2021, with competitors from across Australia travelling to Benalla Rural City for the event.

With Victoria holding hosting rights for 2021, Pony Club’s major body made the announcement last Wednesday, giving Benalla the green light following an exhaustive search for its next location.

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Pony Club Australia chief executive officer Catherine Ainsworth said she was excited to be able to bring riders from across the country to regional Victoria.

“It was Victoria's turn to host in 2021, and we were happy to see it could be held in Benalla,” Ms Ainsworth said.

“Pony Club is a grassroot sporting organisation and we are a regional based sport, so it makes great sense to represent that (through our choice of location).

With more than 400 competitors and their family set to visit Benalla, the championships are a sure-fire way to bring with it a major boost to the local economy.

“We are looking at how to contribute to the economy to town,” Ms Ainsworth said.

“We'll be looking to work with local catering and hire local people. 

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“And the beauty of the Benalla site is it’s also adjacent to the race course, so we hope to work with Racing Victoria to make the most of people's exposure to the horse industry.”

Following the announcement, Benalla Pony Club president Scott Woodstock said it was "incredibly exciting" for Benalla and its local Pony Club to be chosen to host the national event.

“There is prestige in it you could say,” Mr Woodstock said.

“Not many places get to do this. So, to be nominated and chosen for it, there is a lot of people to thank for that.”

Benalla Equestrian Reserve will hold several disciplines across the week-long event, including showjumping, dressage, cross country, tetrathlon and gymkhana.

XCountry is the only discipline that will need to be held off site, with nearby Oxley Reserve in Moyhu locked in to host the discipline.

Despite the championships being more than 22 months away, Woodstock said preparations for the event had already begun.

“There is still some work to do. Good facilities can always become great facilities,” he said.

“The Benalla Adult Riding Club just held the TTT competition at the reserve, so we’ll be talking to them to see what work worked well and what didn’t and what we need to upgrade.”

The National Championships are held every two years and recently concluded at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre in October this year.