We’ve talked a lot about the game of polo and how our spectators are involved in our sport – but we haven’t talked much about the most essential asset to our sport – our ponies!
If you’ve ever been to a polo match at Chukkar Farm, we’re sure you’ve noted that we aren’t actually riding ponies (horses under 14.2 hands – a hand is measured in 4 inches). The term ‘polo pony’ originated from the original polo rules that required polo mounts to be 14.2 hands in height (hh) or less. These original ponies were often recruited from western cowboys as they were well broke to handle a human swinging a large mallet off of their back, and they were already swift and agile from working cattle. Now, most polo players are riding thoroughbreds – the same horses that run in races such as the Preakness and Kentucky Derby each year. You’ll often find that the horses in polo matches are actually retired racehorses that went on to learn to play polo as their second career.
If you ask any polo player, they’ll tell you that 70-80% of their game is the quality and training of their horse. This is why they look to thoroughbreds. Players need horses that have the stamina to run at top speeds for 7 minutes, turn faster, stop faster, and be sensitive enough to respond to the riders every aid. And this is why they look to the racehorse.
Most polo ponies in their prime are around 9 years old, but ponies that are competing at lower levels of play can be aged well into their teens. Most of the ponies we have at Chukkar Farm have been retired from high-goal polo (fast, hard games with excellent players) to play at our lower-goal games and teach beginners the ropes. We are very fortunate to have to many wonderful ponies and take excellent care of them every day.