Prince Harry & Polo

I came across this article today in my Google News, and even though my first (H/J) horse was a polo pony who changed careers (shows on grass were a no go!), I realized I don’t know much about polo. Is it unusual to ride three mounts in a match? I know those ponies RUN. Is it the nature of the game or is it because he fell off or is a less skilled rider?

Players will ride several ponies during the course of a match, with each pony allowed to play a maximum of two chukkas in total, with a chukka break in between. At the higher levels, players will change ponies midway through chukkas too, such is the intensity of the action.

Prince Harry has been playing polo since he was a kid, and according to some articles I found by Google he’s been playing for awhile in California.

4 Likes

pretty common to use three mounts, strangely the only of our kids who ever has played polo is youngest son, he has several well heeled friends who have large strings of polo mounts who invite him to matches pretty often (he is in NYC area)…he definitely lives in a different world than us

5 Likes

Top polo players have a string of ponies they bring for a match. The sport is very grueling so polo ponies are ridden for short periods and then switched out for a fresh pony.

6 Likes

Most often in high goal polo, there’s a fresh horse for each period or chukker. Sometimes, riders switch horses during chukkers. There are between 4 and 6 chukkers per game, 7 1/2 min each. The horses are very, very fit and know their jobs well.

For fun, go back and read Kipling’s The Maltese Cat.

4 Likes

The.BEST.Polo.Story.Ever!
Told from the horses’ POV :sunglasses:
Kipling was a true horseman.

4 Likes

He’s a pretty good player along with his father and brother. And yes, you can come off - some of turns and stops are pretty fast. I didn’t think Meghan would let him play as it has nothing to do with her.

6 Likes

In this case, the photo shows the pony fell also, so definitely a within-chukker switch was a good idea. Hope the pony was okay, too.

3 Likes

One reason why polo is such an expensive sport is the number of (expensive) horses required. At the higher levels it is one pony per chukka and so four to six will be needed at every match. Then, the Patron will likely be mounting many/most of his/her team so multiply that many ponies by two, three or four. Most of the top teams breed horses in large numbers and polo has long been at the forefront of equine reproduction techniques. Lower level participation isn’t nearly as demanding on the horse so at PC level even a single pony can do the job.

The Maltese Cat is one of my favorites.

3 Likes

I can’t remember where I read/watched/heard about this, but I recall learning about a top Argentine player with a string of cloned mares for polo — so, in theory, it’s like he rides the “same” mare the whole match. I thought it was fascinating in a weird old-world-meets-sci-fi kind of way.

9 Likes

Cloning is relatively common in polo-- they actually cloned the TB stallion Storm Cat to use as a sire a few years ago.

3 Likes

Thanks, all! Makes sense! And I hope the pony who fell is okay. Yikes.

1 Like

Wasn’t Storm Cat known to pass on a nasty temperament?
Not ideal when the Ponies work so closely on the field :grimacing:

IME they’re not really any nastier on average then any other horses. Although you definitely want them to be on the spicier side for polo anyway, just short of actually kicking or biting. It takes a brave, aggressive horse to play, especially in high goal. That’s part of why mares are preferred.

3 Likes

omg how did I not know this!!! So many people would be appalled hahaha

I personally love Storm Cat, all of our TBs have him except for one and she is the spiciest of them all haha

I played college polo-- the most fun I’ve ever had on horseback! Yes to the need for multiple mounts for each player in high goal polo-- generally 6 per game. The horses are incredibly well schooled, appropriately aggressive (they must be ok with close quarters, high speed, bumping and driving into other horses-- all while not biting or fighting back). Our ponies were a mixed bunch of OTTBs, QH, grade (many from the vet school or semi-retired from polo strings) but all handy as heck.

Falls are actually not uncommon due to the turns and bumping, especially when you have guys who aren’t really good riders but avid players, if you know what I mean. But the good players? Whooboy! What riders!

3 Likes

Back when I played in school, my mare - an otherwise nice, sweet girl - loved polo and was unafraid to get in there and mix it up when necessary. Not aggressively, but brave with a lot of heart. My gelding preferred to rely on his speed and agility; he really knew the game, probably better than me, and I probably sorely disappointed him sometimes, lol.

I also rode an ex-polo pony or two as a young rider, ones with second careers in H/J. Polo ponies are definitely not nasty horses – they know their job, they’re good at it because they love it.

The Maltese Cat is wonderful.

2 Likes

Typically polo players ride 6 horses during a polo match - changing mounts for each of the 6 chukkers. Though some players will rotate between 3-4 hours for match if they don’t have a full string.

1 Like

Wandering by to mention that Michael Sinclair-Smith’s “Chase Chronicles” books are fun reads and include story lines involving polo.

In the early 80s after taking up polo in Saratoga, he re-introduced polo to Montreal at his horse farm west of the city. … He played polo in Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Argentina and the USA.

Many years ago I was surfing looking for something interesting to watch. I stopped when I saw a bunch of people standing around in western riding outfits. A bunch of horses were tied to a fence. Episode 1: who can be the best cowboy in 10 weeks. You had to know how to ride. This guy talked for a while and then told them to tack up. Everybody got busy except this one potential cowboy standing next to the horse, watching everybody. The guy comes up and says tack up. Potential cowboy says “I can’t. I don’t know how.” The guy says “I thought you knew how to ride. Don’t you play polo?” “Yes, but we have grooms who do that,”

2 Likes