Pony club ride remembers the pit ponies killed in the Mount Kembla Mining Disaster

Tribute: Pony club members at the end of their ride from Farmborough Heights to Windy Gully in memory of the pit ponies. Pic: Greg Ellis.
Tribute: Pony club members at the end of their ride from Farmborough Heights to Windy Gully in memory of the pit ponies. Pic: Greg Ellis.

A group of 30 young horse enthusiasts enjoyed perfect weather on Sunday for a leisurely ride from Farmborough Heights to Kembla Heights.

They were all members of two Illawarra pony clubs that recently merged in order to remain viable.

ILLAWARRA MERCURY Keira Pony Club pit pony memorial ride. Video: Greg Ellis.

The children enjoyed  both the historical and educational aspects of their journey which ended at Windy Gully. The route went via the National Park’s Mount Kembla Ring Trail. The end of the ride involved the laying of a wreath at the cemetery in honour of the pit ponies that perished in the Mount Kembla Mining Disaster.

All the young riders were from Keira Pony Club that formed when Berkeley and Figtree pony clubs came together to reduce the costs of maintaining grounds.

Sunday’s ride was the brainchild of Virginia Lautrec who walked the route with other parents in case some of the younger riders needed a hand. She had the idea a few years ago but everything came together this year and she wants to make it an annual event open to other riders as well. “I managed to get a great contact at the Farmborough Heights Rural Fire Bridage who was so helpful. And then I found a really good contact at National Parks and Wildlife. It just gained momentum from there. We had to make sure we had all our insurance and everything in place.”

Mrs Lautrec said the children were very interested in finding out all about the pit ponies and the Mount Kembla Mining Disaster.

“We had a beautiful wreath made up by the lady from Cherie Blossom Florist in Figtree who is also a Mount Kembla resident and a former pony clubber. People just seem to take such an interest in this ride and really supported us,” she said.

“People who own the property around Windy Gully were really helpful and so excited. It just really became a community effort. It was just lovely. And we had so many people coming up to look at the horses thinking it was great to see so many.” 

Mrs Lautrec said they showed the children the old pit pony stables at the old Kembla 2 Mine at Farmborough Heights and the old mine houses still in the area.

“They went all through the cemetery and Windy Gully and they were really interested in it. We talked about the pit ponies and the work they had to do. And how sad the disaster was. And an older man who used to be a farrier at the mine came up and had a chat to us. Hopefully next year we will be able to have someone have a display with the old harnesses and other items used with the pit ponies.”

Mrs Lautrec said the feedback from everyone involved, including her own daughter Isobel Lautrec who rode, was really positive.

“They were all really happy to be there and all want to come along again next year,” she said.

“So it was a really successful day.”

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