Polo Pony Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
The Polo Pony requires speed, stamina (since his work is done at a gallop), courage and very good balance. In addition, the temperament must be bold and lively without being excitable.
The polo pony is not a breed of horse, but a type of horse that displays the characteristics required for the game of polo!
Although polo ponies are Thoroughbred in appearance, they have a typical, wiry quality of their own. A roached mane (totally trimmed away) is customary to avoid interference with the stick (mallet). Otherwise, the head is similar to that of a Thoroughbred. The horse is lively, intelligent and full of character.
For the sake of balance, a fairly long, well muscled neck that is in no way heavy is absolutely essential for the Polo Pony. Prominent withers with good, strong shoulders are also an essential attribute if the pony is to be sufficiently handy. The back needs to be short and the ribs well sprung. Good quarters are an obvious requirement, as they must be able to gallop flat out, stop in a second and turn on a dime, or less!
Limbs and joints must be strong and correctly made for the pony to endure the rigorous game and to be able to accelerate, turn and stop quickly. Short cannons and good bone characterize top class polo horses. An unduly long, low stride is not however an essential attribute.
Height is around 15.1 hands and the polo pony can be any color. Hooves need to be completely sound, as polo grounds are often hard and the game is played at a full gallop.
WHERE AND HOW
Polo ponies can be found from searching through large numbers of horses bred primarily for other purposes, such as handling cattle or racing, and then selecting those few that show outstanding natural aptitude for polo. These horses are then trained to allow the player to hit the ball all around them, to gallop straight on the line of the ball, to face an onrush of others horses, to jump from a standstill into a gallop, to stop and turn handily, and to ride into the other horses as and when required. Concurrently with this they are played, slowly at first, and they generally improve as they gain experience of the game.
Preparations for the game include braiding of the pony’s tail in a polo bang so that the stick does not get caught in it; the placing of protective boots on all four legs; and meticulous inspection of all tack to prevent accidents during the play.
Britain was the first western country to play polo and used to have a Polo Pony Stud Book based on native pony mares crossed with small Thoroughbreds. In America, Thoroughbred horses crossed with American Quarter Horses are bred to produce polo ponies.
ALMOST A BREED IN ARGENTINA
However Argentina has developed a Polo Pony that excels at the game and this horse is very close to being a breed as its characteristics are more fixed in detail than many of the established breeds.
The Criollo, the native horse of Argentina, derived from early Spanish stock is probably as tough and sound as any other horse in the world and is the cow pony of the legendary gauchos. When crossed with the Thoroughbred, it became the base for the Argentina Polo Pony.
Argentina imported the best Thoroughbred stallions, crossed them with the tough, Criollo stock and then again to the Thoroughbred in the second cross. This produced the ideal of a polo pony, distinctly Thoroughbred in appearance, but shorter strided. The Argentina Polo Pony seems to have an inbred talent for the game in much the same way that a cow pony works cattle instinctively.
The history of polo spans many centuries of variations of the game, having evolved into the game of today and a good polo pony is always in demand globally. The pony is the most important factor, other than the skill of the player and often times in history it has been the qualities of a Polo Pony who determined the winner of a game.