Welcome to LHK Polo’s first blog. Many of you have probably never watched polo or are even aware that it’s played here in Ireland. As a basic introduction to polo there are two teams consisting of four players per team, with the aim to move the ball down the field to score goals – sounds easy! Each game is divided into four “chukkas” which are a period of play lasting 7 minutes 30 seconds. Each player has a handicap from -2 – 10 goals and the team is the total of the players handicaps. Here in Ireland we pay 0-8 goal tournaments. A Polo pony is a misnomer as they are usually between 15hh and 15.3hh but can range up to 16.1hh. We use a mix of thoroughbreds and argentine criollo ponies. Players will often say that the ponies make up 80% of their game and they need to be tough, fast and agile to be able to gallop most of the chukka, and do lots of stops and turns. Players usually ride one pony per chukka, but can do “half chukkas” where they change to another pony as it can be very intense on them, and they cannot use the same pony twice without a chukkas rest in between. Ponies will have their manes hogged and their tails tied up to prevent a mallet getting caught during play. Here at LHK Polo we have 8 patron ponies this season but will have anywhere up to 26 for the full team.
It’s been a quiet month for us as pre-season fitness begins mid-March. It all starts with visits from dentists, farriers, physios and Bluegrass Feed Consultant Craig to prepare for the season ahead and get the ponies in the best possible shape. This season we will be using a combination of Horse and Pony Cubes and Re-Leve for the playing ponies and Stamm30 for the young ones. We have used these for the past three years with fantastic results. People think polo ponies need high cereal feeds but we have found good quality proteins and slow release energy to complement the demands of the sport particularly well, especially with many performance horses prone to ulcers.
The ponies have had a six month holiday over the winter so we start them off with some roadwork to get them legged up before moving to the arena or track. There was an international arena game with USA v Ireland at Polo Wicklow on 15th April and two of the ponies were able to umpire. Lizzie, a five year old argentine mare, and Miguel, a 9 year old Thoroughbred, sported the striped shirt with team patron Colm Kelleher. It was an exciting game with visiting team USA just missing out on a win this year with a final score of 6-9 to Ireland.
This coming month the ponies will be out “stick and balling” which is individual practice and hopefully the weather will improve soon so we can get some team practice chukkas on the grass for the season ahead, which starts in Wicklow on 19th May. Hope to see some of you there to spectate and for some divot stomping at half time!
Photo credit: Vicky Lambert Photography