July 2017 - Youth Spotlight: Black Oaks Pony Club

Central California club and its members represent the future of national organization.

Black Oaks Pony Club has a long history in the Paso Robles area and it also reflects the future of the U.S. Pony Club’s effort to expand its membership base. Eventing has long been the competitive discipline most associated with Pony Club, but the organization now offers “certifications,” formerly called “ratings,” in show jumping, hunter equitation, dressage and even western.

Black Oaks represents the new national direction in that its District Commissioner, Sarah Dubost, is a hunter/jumper trainer. Looking for a way to get her students and other area riders a well-rounded horsemanship education, Sarah took on the DC post at Black Oaks. She didn’t have a Pony Club background, but she has a big edge in having Nancy Pittman as Club secretary. Nancy is actually president of the U.S. Pony Club nationally, bringing many years experience with Pony Club practices and educational methods, not to mention a ton of infectious enthusiasm. They make a powerful pair and Black Oaks has been growing at a good pace. That’s important because much of the learning happens when older kids teach younger members, learning more themselves in the process.

For more information on the Black Oaks Pony Club, visit www.blackoaksponyclub.org. DC Sarah Dubost can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . And, Nancy is happy to answer questions about Black Oaks or other Pony Club related subjects. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

All three of our featured Black Oaks riders train with Sarah, out of her Dubost Equestrian in Templeton.

(left) Jesse and his dad Chris Starkman.; (right) Jesse Starkman & Right On Time.

Jesse Starkman

Ten-year old Jesse Starkman is busy filling big shoes. His late mother, Jill Weaver Starkman, was an accomplished trainer and his grandmother, Linda Starkman, has contributed to the sport as a rider, owner, breeder and owner/developer of the super-popular Paso Robles Horse Park. Following in the footsteps of his siblings, Sophia and Max, Jesse is taking it one happy stride at a time as a Black Oaks member for about one year.

With his pony Right On Time, he’s focused on cantering and completing a full jumping course. He enjoyed competing in a mock rally recently and appreciated that “the girls helped me a lot. It was very fun!”

Jesse started under his mother’s tutelage. “She started me on a pony that bucked me off twice in one day!” he recalls proudly. “She was a great teacher and she made you do it all, including mucking!” Olympic gold medal show jumper Will Simpson is a family friend that Jesse has special admiration for. “He is so much fun!”

He also loves soccer, which makes for some busy afternoons trying to practice both sports. Homework adds to the challenge of fitting everything in. Happily, there is free time for trail rides with his dad, Chris, on “Nana’s ranch,” in Paso Robles, where the family keeps their horses.


Payton Ansite

Nearly 13-year-old Payton is targeting the Central Coast Equestrian Association Medal Finals this October, with the hope of ribboning, and her longer term goal is earning her C-1 Pony Club rating. That’s a big advance from her start with the program just two years ago. Along the way, Payton’s everyday riding goal is keeping her 17.2hh Oldenburg gelding, Pokey, in front of her leg more.

Payton counts Sarah as her most influential teacher. “She has tons of patience, and she’s great at explaining things.  The most important lesson she has taught me is to press on out of my comfort zone and end up on the other side as a better rider.” Being somewhat new to the scene, she has not zeroed in on other professionals to emulate, but recently enjoyed the chance to compete at shows with Olympic eventer Gina Miles and top hunter rider John French. “It’s really neat to watch and learn from their riding,” she says.

So far, Payton’s fave Pony Club event is the Show Jumping Rally held in Fresno in May. “I was on a team with four other teammates from our club.  You have to do everything with your teammates -- no help from parents or other adults,” she explains. “From unpacking the trailers, setting up tack rooms and feed rooms to getting tacked up for inspection.  It’s a lot of work but also a lot of fun.  It was really special to me because this year they included an equitation round and I placed 1st out of 25 riders.”

Beach riding at Morro beach is a favorite free time activity, but not on Pokey. “He doesn’t do the beach!” During breaks from pursuing their impressive goals, trail riding is more Pokey’s thing.

Sasha Baer & Amoudi.

Sasha Baer

With her 8 year old Appendix gelding, Amoudi, Sasha is targeting the three-foot jumping division and earning her C-2 Pony Club Rating. Learning more about her horse continues to be an everyday goal. She’s had Amoudi for about a year and a half and has come through some challenges with him. “About six months after I bought Amoudi, he went through a phase where he wanted to challenge me and to see how far he could get,” the 14-year-old explains. “After months of hard work and great coaching from my trainer, we are working through it.”

Sasha began riding at 7, on lesson ponies, then worked her way to owning her own horses. She’s been a Pony Club member for three or four years now and loves it all. A favorite event was when a polo trainer visited to teach Black Oaks members how to play the game. “I also love to compete in Pony Club Rallies because it’s a great experience for both me and my horse.”

In addition to her competition mount, Amoudi, Sasha owns three other horses. She loves riding all of them on the beach and in the surf and also enjoys taking them to a nearby pond where the horses graze while she eats lunch.

If your association or club has young stars deserving of Youth Spotlight consideration, please contact editor Kim F Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .