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We’re all used to hearing about rescues that help former racehorses find new careers after the track.  In fact, many of those former racehorses find a second career on the polo field!  But what happens to polo ponies when they are older or injured and can no longer stand up to the demands of polo?  Polo is an expensive sport, and many ponies are lucky enough to have owners who are happy to keep them and fund their retirement years.  However, just like racehorses, some truly amazing horses wind up in danger — often merely due to the naivete of their former owners, who thought they had found them an appropriate retirement home.

Some things you may not know about placing your older polo pony:

1.  When you donate your pony to an equestrian program, therapy center or kid’s camp, you typically turn over ownership completely and have no legal rights.  The entity you donated the pony to may choose to sell him to a dealer, even a dealer who specializes in slaughtering horses (a “kill buyer”) the next day!  They are well within their legal rights to do so.  Some programs are great, but some are not, and whether or not they’re part of an Ivy League school means nothing.  I will be blogging in the future about how to find a reputable program for your retiree.

2.  It is a common scam for kill buyers to show up to look at free horses with their child in tow, lying that the horse is for the child to ride.  Your horse will be on a truck to Mexico within the week.  Don’t think women aren’t in the slaughter trade – just this year, a young woman who was assistant trainer at an upscale hunter/jumper barn on the East coast was caught running a slaughter business on the side.  She bragged that she had sent over 100 horses to kill.  News story here.

3.  You and your pony take good care for granted.  People in polo tend to be much more knowledgeable than the average person, even the average professional horseperson, about areas like conditioning, shoeing, and how to feed an aging Thoroughbred.  You would be shocked at how often a horse who has never had any health problems before will drop weight or become lame in inexperienced hands.   Once the horse is no longer “useful,” he is often at risk.

Now for the good news:  Polo ponies are some of the most marketable aged horses on earth.  Most are safe for anyone to ride.  They jump in the horse trailer, are not fazed by horse show announcers or trail courses, and ride down the road without blinking.  With a little effort and a careful screening progress, we absolutely can place horses who are still serviceably sound in loving homes where they will receive the best of care.  If your horse isn’t sound at all, we can help you find the best retirement option.   We will be taking in a limited number of horses who are truly in need and have no owner who can step up for their care, but we will also provide free assistance to any player with marketing their older ponies and screening potential homes.  In addition, when you’re looking for prospects, look here – we’ll be networking small off-track Thoroughbreds who are at risk and may have a polo career in their future!   E-mail any time with your questions, and we’ll do our best to help.

This year alone, we’ve found quality ponies in kill pens in several states and in the animal shelter after being seized for neglect.  Polo is a small world and there is no excuse for any pony to wind up in such dire straits.  It’s time we took care of our own.  We’re going to start doing just that, and we hope that you’ll join us and support us!

26 year old Juesa, rescued from the Lancaster shelter three weeks ago, would also like me to mention that she is personally accepting donations of cookies.  She likes the peppermint flavor.

Give me cookies!