Racehorses for Polo.
The retraining of racehorses for polo is not for the inexperienced. Horses that are leaving racing can be as young as 2 years old and far from fully grown. It takes a good eye and equine knowledge to spot a horse that has the potential to become a good polo pony and justify the huge time commitment that it will take to retrain.
Even for the experienced (and brave) taking on a horse that is leaving racing is a bit of a gamble whether it will cut the mustard. But many have been successfully retrained and can be found in eventing, dressage, showjumping, hunting, endurance, team chasing, showing, horseball as well as polo. These are thoroughbreds with good blood lines that deserve a second chance.
Horses that are being taken out of racing can be obtained from racing yards, specialist bloodstock sales, equine charities or the ROR website. However these horses may come direct from the track. They are on a racing diet, are muscled from the gallops, used to being ridden ‘jockey’ style, mounted on the move, running with other horses, and in short used to as completely different way of life. They require a gradual transition from their old way of life to avoid high levels of stress which thoroughbreds can be a little prone to.
Experience is required from the trainer to judge how far to push the horse and when to stop. It is very easy to go too far in a session and end up making the horse go backward. Everything is new to the horse – the environment, the tack, change of diet, riding style and signals. The horse is going through a huge change in its life.
The introduction to polo can take place in the first year, but the horse is not being played at this stage, just being acclimatized to the environment; the ball, the sticks, the other horses, the whistle and bell etc. Being ready to participate may take two or three years depending on the ability and temperament of the horse.
You can see some of the horses that are currently being retrained for polo. The Racing to Polo Challenge is being held by the Retraining of Racehorses (ROR) and hosted by the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club on Monday 5 September, starting at 11am. With horses in groups aged from 3 years old to 6 years old you will be able to see horses in their various stages of development. The trainers will be putting them through their paces in an attempt to win the £1000 prize money for each age group. They have 90 seconds of freestyle to demonstrate to the judges stops, turns, flying changes, transitions and acceptance of the mallet.
If you are interested in the retraining of racehorses for polo this is a great event to attend. For more information visit www.ror.org.uk