Buying a polo pony that suits you is something you must get right first time since it is vital to your future performance. Never underestimate the value of a top-class polo pony, for no matter how good a player has been in the past, on the day of the match he is totally dependent on the speed, stamina, agility and temperament of his pony.
For without the right pony no player can hope to perform well. While players are readily given a goal rating as an informal guarantee of their polo playing ability, let’s not forget that the real heroes of the game are often the polo ponies themselves. They stand quietly in the horse lines waiting for their chance to shine – and shine they do.
Anyone who has ever watched these kind, intelligent and versatile creatures twist and turn, gallop from a standstill and even on occasions stop the ball with their legs can’t fail to be moved and impressed, especially as some of these beautiful ponies are purchased by overweight, thrusting novice players who often ride with little regard for the pony’s mouth or limbs.
Polo ponies form the very heart of the game that is polo. Is it any wonder then that the players get so attached to their ponies? Many of the experienced ponies can change hands for huge sums of money and are held in high esteem throughout the polo world. A few years ago, when a star player lost his pony with a heart attack in the middle of a chukka, he was seen leaving the pitch in floods of tears. Why not, he had just lost one of his closest friends – his best polo pony.
Polo ponies are usually produced in Britain these days with specialist trainers travelling the world in search of polo ponies that meet the exacting and demanding criteria of a well-rounded playing pony, which must have a steady temperament, looks, sound health and excellent manners of a highly advanced athlete.
A good pony must be exceptional both on and off the ground and be versatile in their approach to life. The latter attribute is vitally important since the nature of their job dictates that they will come across noisy crowds, loudspeakers, cramped horse lines, impatient grooms and many, many miles of tedious travelling between events.
Polo ponies should only be offered for sale when they are fully fit, mature and feel ready to go on and maintain the high standards they have already achieved. A quality pony is alert, attentive with bright eyes, elastic skin and a shining glossy coat Above all it should be sound in wind and limb with no hint of lameness or breathing problems. Given the opportunity, it will run and cavort for exercise and show a love of playing polo.
Purchasing your first polo pony is rather like buying your first car. If you don’t know what you are doing talk to people who own polo ponies and actually play polo at a club before you make contact with anyone selling a pony.
In addition learn as much as you can about the clubs and dealers in your area before you actually go looking at ponies for sale. Horse dealers often give a 10% finders fee to anyone that recommends them, so be sure to listen to someone you can trust who has your best interests at heart.
Ride as many different horses as possible before buying a pony; even if you have to take a trip to the local riding school. This will help you get a feel for the size and type of animal that’s right for you. You need to physically experience how a horse moves underneath you. By trying different types of horses you will get to know what you want and what suits your particular physique.
Remember a good polo pony is an asset that will pay off in every game, so buy the best you can afford. A reputable dealer will let you stick and ball a pony you are interested in purchasing. It is not a bad idea to ask an experienced polo player to try the polo pony for you and request a week’s trial from the dealer. This will enable you to ride and handle the horse daily, if a horse dealer is not keen be aware there may be something amiss with the pony.
If you are a novice yourself it is usually best to buy an experienced, older polo pony that will help you out of any tight spots during the game. Three, four, or even five year olds have very little experience, even if they have played quite a lot of polo.
You’ll learn the game faster and it will be much easier on an experienced pony. More over, you’ll enjoy the sport more, even if you miss some of the action through lack of speed. A fast horse may get you to the ball a little quicker, but if you are a novice you probably won’t be able to hit the ball at that speed.
If you practice and play regularly, on a kind and reliable polo pony you will eventually move up to faster polo. Make sure the seller of your pony provides you with a complete history, in particular mentioning any eating problems, bad habits or behavour quirks
ALWAYS have a horse examined by an equine veterinarian before you make your purchase. A full five star vetting can give you a good idea of the its age and physical fitness and detect any hidden health problems. If a horse falls headlong or collapses on top of you through heart trouble you could get seriously injured.
Polo is the world’s fastest team sport, so while that speed comes quite naturally for a polo pony, it may come very slowly for you especially if you are new to polo. Be patient with yourself and above all with your mount. The idea is to have fun playing the game you love – not to set yourself impossible goals!