Mankind has taken the very best qualities of the horse, speed, agility, strength and courage and integrated them into a sport where the horse itself is not only the vehicle, but the champion. A true polo pony wants to be on the field. They give their absolute best to the cause and thrive on the competition and challenge just as their human counterparts do. They work with and trust in the rider just as the rider guides and puts their faith in their steed. It is an extraordinary relationship and, when perfectly in sync, it is like rider and horse are an extension of one another.
Never was this more apparent than when you see a pair like Agustin “Tincho” Merlos and his stunning American Thoroughbred mare Marisol play together as they have been doing this season with Tonkawa in the inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO™ at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Marisol is the beautiful grey seen streaming towards goal in almost every match Tincho plays around the world, demanding attention and respect wherever she goes. The 10-year-old mare has been the perfect partner to Tincho, one of polo’s most successful forward players and a notorious goal scoring machine, since he purchased her almost eight years ago. Aboard Marisol, Merlos is unstoppable as the pair glide seamlessly around the field and between the posts time and time again.
What are Marisol’s strengths?
“Her strength is her stamina. She never gets tired and her top speed is amazing. She runs without effort. Her mouth and lateral movements are incredible. She is the best mare I have played in my life. It’s actually ridiculous how good she is. She’s my favorite because she always plays with heart and she has everything that you need, and you don’t actually have to think about her at all when you’re playing. You can concentrate entirely on the game and you almost feel like she isn’t even there when you play her. She is everything you could ask for in a polo horse.”
What makes her different from the other horses in your string?
“She is different because she is always ready for you and she never has a bad day. She is gentle and very strong at the same time. She is so good to handle as well. Always very kind. She’s kind in her stall and to exercise. She’s always in a good mood and has no problems or issues.”
How did she come to be in your string?
“She is an American Thoroughbred and I bought her when she was two-and-a-half years old from La Victoria Farm in Wellington, Florida, having already been broken and stick and balled. I bought her in the United States, and I finished her over the year. I started playing her in high goal when she was six years old.”
At just three years old, how did you know that this mare had what it takes and what did you do to bring the polo pony out of her?
“Right from the beginning I really liked her. I was sure from the first day I rode her and thought that she could be an incredible mare. At about six she started to play amazing and at seven she just started flying, flying without losing anything else. She is truly an amazing horse.”
How can you tell when you go to try a horse that they are the right one for you?
“My father Cacho Merlos taught me years ago how to feel potential in a young horse and I have never forgotten. When buying young horses there are things that you have to know first before you even ride them. They need to tick all the boxes. They’ve got to be properly built, have good, correct legs, a good attitude and be the right size.
When you come to try them you have to test their limits and interact with them. It’s a personal judgement. It’s not easy, but once you get to a certain level of horses that you have and that you like, it starts to come a lot more naturally.
I am pretty observant, and I understand the horses and the trainers and the different breeds like the quarter horses and the thoroughbreds and their qualities. They are all things that you learn over a lifetime. I have so much passion for horses and if it is something you love then you learn quickly to read horses well.”
Has Marisol won any awards?
“She has won loads of awards! She won Best Playing Pony in the Queen’s Cup Semifinal in 2016 in the United Kingdom. This is my favorite memory of her, getting this blanket after the match against King Power was incredible. She played in two chukkers and in both of them she was playing against Facundo’s famous horse Cube, who is an amazing mare. Marisol was on top of her and beat her at every turn, every ride off and every run and she just made me so proud. She’s won three more Best Playing Pony prizes in the UK in the Queen’s Cup (at Guards Polo Club) and the Gold Cup for the British Open (at Cowdray Park Polo Club).”
What chukker do you normally play her?
“She is the kind of horse that can play in any chukker, it really doesn’t matter. She can play first, last, it honestly doesn’t make a difference to her. I usually try to play her twice a match so I get to enjoy her, but sometimes I only play her once.”
How do you feel when you ride her?
“When I ride her, I feel blessed. I am so lucky to have her, we get along very well. My son Rufino rides her a lot as well. He has played her in a couple of chukkers and practices. He stick and balls her a lot. They love each other. She is a mare who will teach him a lot of things. Sometimes he thinks she’s too strong, but she knows exactly who is riding her. She knows it’s a boy and she changes accordingly.”
How often do you travel with her?
“She played in 2016 in the U.S. and the UK. Now after three seasons she is back in the U.S. I respect that horses need time to get used to changes so I don’t like to travel with them too much in order for them to perform their best. Eventually, one day, she will go to Argentina.”
What are your plans for her now?
“Her future is to play as much as she can and for me to keep enjoying her! My plans are also to breed her. Actually, I already took an embryo from her and used a Thoroughbred stallion that gave a few good polo mares in the past and have a filly who is now four-years-old. She is young still, but she’s already doing well. She’s a great prospect.
Marisol is definitely a mare to breed more from in the future. I am also planning on cloning her this year. I have to finalize ideas and terms. Obviously I will take as many clones as I can get from her, that doesn’t depend on me, it depends on science, but I want to clone her because she is perfect. She is everything.”