There’s never a dull moment in Wellington. Even though the show jumping season is winding down, polo season is still in full swing, with the U.S. Open brackets being fought out during most of April. And last night the 2nd Annual National Polo Pony Show was held over at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, which normally hosts CDI dressage shows, and of course, the recent Masters.
But with nary a dressage horse in sight, polo ponies had their night in the spotlight with this event, dreamed up by one of polo’s most talented female players, Sunny Hale. She’s president of the American Polo Horse Association, which was created to register and recognize polo ponies, promote breeding programs, and generally give this sport a little more guidance and structure when it comes to the horses that are such a critical part of it.
Polo requires so many horses per player (in a high goal game one player might use up to 10 horses) that sometimes, looking at the horse as an individual gets passed over. Polo ponies are meant to be uniform in size and type, and there are just so many of them that sometimes, they blend together. But Sunny, daughter of legendary female polo player Sue Sally Hale, is on a mission to give the ponies some more recognition, so hats off to her. She organized the whole event, which included a silent auction and benefitted the Polo Museum and Philadelphia’s Work to Ride program.
There were halter classes:
A Nations Cup Competition/relay race, in which four teams of three competed against each other on a set pattern. The t-shirt wearing team from Grand Champions Polo Club won the class:
Finally, there was the very best thing that ever happened to a polo pony show; the Grooms Competition. On the Line spent a couple of summers as a high-goal polo groom, and knows all too well the pressure that grooms are under on the sidelines, when they must switch horses for their player in a matter of minutes. How long would it take you to remove wraps-boots-breastcollar-standing martingale-draw reins-bridle-saddle w/ two girths, hose and ice a pony and throw aforementioned tack on your next horse? Really good grooms can do it in under 5 minutes, and Sunny Hale accurately likened polo grooms to a Formula One pit team.
Again, teams of three relayed two horses on either end of the ring; they had to tack one up, race to the other end where their teammate was waiting, switch the tack to a new horse, and race back. A high form of entertainment, to say the least.
On the Line is of the opinion that to truly be an excellent polo player, one’s first thought has to be on the game, and then, if there’s time, the pony. Events like this are rare, but appreciated because they give the ponies well-deserved attention and importance that is too often passed over. And sometimes, the polar opposite of a hunter/jumper show is a bit refreshing, helmetless children and all…..