Your horse facts today are about a horse that I imagine you don’t know much about. The Polo Pony is a particular horse, not a pony, that is bred to play polo.
Depending on the period and location, the height of Polo Ponies has varied from about 13 hands in the 16 C. to at least 16 hands. Today, most polo ponies stand around 15.1 hands.
Although they are called a “pony,” that is in reference to their type, rather than their size. True pony breeds usually only stand no higher than 14.2 hands.
Different breeds that comprise the Polo Pony include mountain ponies from the Himalayas, Manipur ponies from Assam, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds and its cross breeds. In the U.S., Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses make the best Polo Ponies. In Australia, the Aussies use stock horses for polo.
During the early 20th Century, a group of U.S. Polo Pony admirers formed a polo breed association including a stud book. Thoroughbred race horses of small size became the main breeder of this group.
Polo Ponies are unique in that they are almost fearless and not afraid to bump into other horses. They certainly can’t be shy of mallets swinging near their heads, and they have to be quick and agile so they can turn on a dime and follow the ball through its many changing movements.
Polo ponies have their manes hogged before a match and their tails are plaited so that the polo mallets will not get tangled in any loose-flying hair. Years ago, the horses’ tails were docked and and their manes banged. Today, Polo Ponies in competition often have their dock trimmed or shaved, and the skirt of the tail is braided and folded up against the tailbone. Besides providing safety for horse and rider alike, it makes a very neat appearance on the playing field.
There are several different periods of play in a game. Every rider has one or two horses per period of play, which are called chukkas. There are usually four to six chukkas per match, each lasting seven minutes.
Polo is often called a game for the rich, and I tend to agree. The horses cost thousands of dollars, the equipment to travel to games and the riding attire just add to the expense, and a game of Polo is usually not seen on fields in America as the game of football or baseball or even “regular” horse shows. So, anyone involved with this sport has got to have some big bucks to keep horses and then travel great distances to participate in games.
Tally ho for the Polo Pony!