When I was in middle school, I had to take a home economics class. Unfortunately, economics was not actually something that was taught. Instead, I learned how to sew a pillow — something I had already learned from my grandmother — and how to bake. If I was preparing for a life in a Jane Austen novel, I would’ve been set. What I really needed was some good life skills. That’s where Pony Club came in.

Fleas, ticks, and lice are problems from humans and animals alike. If lice was brought up in school, it was because we had to go to the nurse’s office to get checked. Once you enter the real world, there is no nurse summoning you down to the office to check you, or your pets, or your kids. It’s on you. Good thing Pony Club taught you how to identify and safely remove parasites!

Anyone who drives a car should know how to check oil, plus check tire pressure and change a tire. Can your boyfriend? A Pony Clubber can. To haul a horse, you need to know how to check your truck and your trailer to make sure they’re safe for humans and horses. There are no such things as “boy” and “girl” jobs in Pony Club. Everyone needs the same skill set if they’re going to be handling 1200-pound animals.

Even though we were playing with needles and ovens, first aid wasn’t something that was brought up. Maybe if you took a babysitting course, or got certified in CPR by the Red Cross, you learned how to check vital signs. But how about putting together a first aid kit? Or using anything that goes in a first aid kit? Or how to keep your cool when you need to use that first aid kit? Pony Club handles that too. If you can handle a horse in a crisis, you can handle a human.

Bandaging and taking vitals aren’t the only emergencies Pony Clubbers know how to handle. Fire prevention, and how to handle horses in a fire, is another skill Clubbers have on their resumes. And it’s not just fires — any crisis that arises, a Pony Clubber is prepared to handle it calmly and cooly.

Crisis management, teamwork, leadership skills, self-confidence, time management — the skills taught in Pony Club are priceless and endless. Just because the focus is on horse and stable management doesn’t mean the skills don’t translate into the world outside the barn. And that’s what we really needed in school, wasn’t it? To be taught things we’d need to use in the real world.