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I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while, but the subject has hit close to home with the discovery of two polo bred, branded fillies at the local low-end “kill buyers and horse trippers” auction. There seems to be no dispute they were brought there by a polo person – even they admitted to it. The only dispute is which stallion sired them, one of whom had a crooked leg. Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn. Taking those fillies to that auction, despite the fact that they got lucky and were pulled by a rescue (we had someone on site too, but we do not bid against other rescues, only against the kill buyers, horse trippers, etc.), was not the right thing to do.

Now, I understand that much of the polo world is not all that techy and has not seen everything on the Internet. I just had a chat this past weekend with a well known, very successful pro player who did not know about horse tripping. Had never heard of such a thing. In an effort to educate those of you who may not be aware of this “sport,” horse tripping is an event which, although illegal in California and many other states, still takes place. It involves roping a horse around the front legs and causing him to flip/fall to the ground. Lightweight horses like yearlings, two year olds, Arabians, etc. are preferred as they are easier to trip and more likely to trip in spectacular fashion which is entertaining for the crowd. These little late yearling polo fillies would have been perfect.

Horse tripping goes on despite laws banning it in many states.

Okay! Now none of you can say you don’t know about it. (Feel free to share this).

This all brings up a bigger debate: What is responsible breeding? We don’t take the extremist position that all breeding is evil or that no animals should be bred. We’re totally in favor of responsible breeding of quality stock, but what IS responsible breeding? Everybody has an opinion. Nobody thinks they are a backyard breeder or “part of the problem.” So let’s discuss some elements of responsible breeding, and of course we welcome your comments and intelligent debate.

Breeding the best to the best, and that doesn’t mean just the winners

The whole point to breeding animals and not just letting them breed willy-nilly, leaving everybody to train and ride a mustang (yee-haw!) is that we can breed for the traits that are desirable and useful. In polo, that would mean straight legs, a compact build, sloping shoulder, strong hip, and of course a sensible yet competitive disposition. So, the first question to ask is whether the horse is really something we want to make more of? Is the horse sound and athletic? Does the horse have any major conformational flaws? Does the horse carry any genetic diseases? (This is a big deal. If you don’t know what HYPP or HERDA are, and if your stock aren’t tested, you should not even consider breeding a foal with an AQHA, APHA or ApHC parent.  This is just one example.) Learn what genetic illnesses affect your particular breed, test and make breeding decisions based upon the results of those tests. You are breeding to improve the breed and you can’t do that if you create a foal that is going to have seizures or have its skin separate and peel off its body. (No, I’m not exaggerating. Google the conditions I mentioned.)

Don’t breed to settle down a crazy mare, or because you have an unbroke stallion and don’t know what else to do with it. Breed two good, solid, sane performers to each other to make more good, solid, sane performers.

Understand how often things go wrong and have a plan for dealing with those events

Professional breeders know that all breeding is a crap shoot. Things may go just fine – or not. You may have a problem delivery that puts the mare in the hospital to the tune of thousands of dollars. You may have to choose between the life of the mare and the life of the foal. Squeamish about the idea of having to kill a stuck foal and remove it from the mare in pieces? Know that you don’t have a couple thousand dollars available for a vet bill?  You’re not ready to breed.

No one likes to think about this, but someone bred this foal expecting it would pop out just fine. It didn’t.  (Image from


And what will you do when that crooked legged foal pops out, or a foal with windswept legs that needs surgery immediately, or a blind foal? I have no issue with euthanizing a foal that will never be able to be a performance horse – but your vet may. Make sure you have a vet who is on board before you need to know the answer to that. Or have a gun and know how to use it properly. If this paragraph is horrifying to you, ask yourself if it’s more right to let those problem foals survive and get passed around, eventually winding up on their way to a slaughterhouse or in some “sanctuary” straight out of an episode of Hoarders or Animal Cops. That is where they wind up, make no mistake. Which brings us to:

Realize that the fantasy of “someone with a farm” who will take and feed and love on crippled, unusable animals forever is just that

For every person like this that truly exists, there exist a hundred more of the following:

1. “Sanctuaries” that are overcrowded hell holes where food is scarce and vet/hoof care more scarce
2. People who would like to have a horse at home but know nothing about them, and will do things like not even recognize the horse is colicking (after they fed them the grass clippings out of the lawnmower, or 46 apples)
3. People who agree to take in a horse as a pet but then think it doesn’t look lame to them and start riding the living hell out of it.
4. Kill buyers who send the wife and kids out to acquire free horses to fill the next load to the slaughterhouse
5. Horse trippers, people who have sex with horses (I really wish I were making that up, but they exist – ask any animal control officer about the things they have seen), and other miscellaneous horrible homes for horses.

If you think you somehow have the wisdom/intuition to discern who is a “good home” by meeting them once, look back on your life and ask yourself how many times you were wrong about a romantic partner. Uh-huh.  I will resist the urge to post the “Mexican slaughterhouse” video, but suffice it to say no horse deserves that.  If you aren’t comfortable with euthanasia of a horse who isn’t genuinely ready for that, keep it and feed it yourself or pay for retirement boarding. We have a section of our web site that lists some excellent retirement facilities.

Even if you give a horse to a friend (and the usual situation is more like Susan’s hairdresser’s niece’s first grade teacher, who has a couple acres), if you don’t do a contract and check up on it, it’s likely to go somewhere bad or go hungry sooner or later. There’s a reason rescues have these scary, multi-page adoption contracts. They’re not directed at you, the good home. They’re directed at making damn sure we can legally get the horse back from the bad home, or ideally, scare the bad home/phony home away in the first place.  Kill buyers don’t sign adoption contracts.

You made it, you train it

Nothing is more frustrating to rescuers than “dispersal sales” aka Oh Crap, We Ran Out Of Money sales full of young stock that are as wild as mustangs off the range despite being deliberately bred in captivity. Two year olds that have never had a hoof trim. Three year olds that barely lead and definitely don’t want to get into a horse trailer. If you look at all of the potential good homes for a horse in the world, I bet less than 1% of them will take on a wild three year old. Not to mention that a horse who hasn’t been regularly dewormed as a baby can have so much parasite damage he may not live to see his next birthday. Foals are work – you have to get out there while they’re still small and manageable and teach them to pick up the feet, to tie, to be brushed all over, to clip. A yearling should load in the trailer, straight tie and cross tie, and be good for the farrier and vet. A two year old should know how to be ponied and be fine about wearing tack. A three year old should be lightly started under saddle. If you want to do a lot of ground work but delay actual riding til a later age, fine – as long as you’re doing all the ground work and the horse ground drives and is as broke as he can be without being actually ridden. If you aren’t up for doing all of this training and can’t afford someone else to do it, again, you’re not really in a position to breed horses. The idea that they will all sell as weanlings is pretty much a fantasy. Very few people want to buy a weanling. Most people want to buy something that is already at least green broke.

Want to breed? You have a lot of work to look forward to, and some of them will try their best to kick your head in. But you have to do it! (Image from

Finally, bottom line is that training = value = safety. How many Ferraris do you see at the auto salvage lot?  Uh-huh. Same goes for horses.  Take your young horse and make SURE it gets made into a solid playing polo pony (or whatever discipline you’ve bred for). That is the best way to keep that horse in a quality home for life, a home that can afford vet and farrier and feed.  It’s not so different than your kids…you want them to go to a good college and have multiple awesome job offers, right?  Educate your young horses and you’ll find they are similarly fought over by quality “employers.”

Take responsibility for your broodmares

Nothing makes the anti-breeding crowd angrier than the idea of a mare being used as just a baby machine and then discarded once the babies stop coming out. They have a valid point. We all know mares are not going to have babies forever. We can choose to quit breeding them and tune them back up under saddle and find them a riding job when they are still young enough to do it – 18, 20. Or we can keep them those last barren years of their lives and feed them and vet them and trim them and pet their noses. Or we can put them to sleep. But sending them to auction or giving them away with no follow up is not a fate that they deserve. Don’t do it. It makes breeders look bad and it makes the sport you breed for look bad.

While we’re at it – if it’s lame at the walk, it’s too lame to carry a foal. If it has DSLD, it should not carry a foal. If you don’t know what DSLD is, you don’t know enough to breed horses.

Do you know how to spot DSLD? A horse like this can hardly bear her own weight, much less the added weight of a foal.  (Image from Horse Plus Humane Society, which (correctly) euthanized this mare)


P.S. The same goes for old stallions. As most of you know, we had a stakes winner of $268k here this summer that sold at auction for $30. That is shameful and wrong no matter how you look at it.

Have an open door policy for the horses you have bred and brand them to make identification easier

Did you make it? Then be willing to take it back if, despite your best efforts, it winds up at an auction or at a shelter or at a rescue or seized by animal control. Take it back, take responsibility – either euthanize it or rehabilitate it. Or if it’s a thousand miles away from you when this happens and it is in the care of a responsible rescue who you can verify as a good one (Google is your friend, so are sites like Yelp and the Rip-Off Report), make a substantial donation. (That’s not $50, by the way). Make a donation to help that good rescue get that horse rehabbed and into a new home. You can write it off your taxes and it is the right thing to do.

I read a great article a while back in an AQHA magazine. The gist of it was that if we don’t police ourselves, someone else will. This is very true of breeding horses (or dogs, or anything else). If you don’t want people who know nothing about horses making laws that affect your right to breed quality horses, then police yourselves. Breed responsibly. Follow up on what you bred. Don’t breed genetically defective horses. Don’t dump your culls or your old broodmares at auction or give them away to be someone else’s problem or wind up as an opportunity for the extremist fringe to say “see, this is what breeders do! Ban all breeding!” Do the right thing – we all know what the right thing is. Sure it’s more expensive to do the right thing, and sometimes it is a pain in the butt to do the right thing, but the consequences of not doing the right thing – to the horses, to the industry and the horse sports that we love – are much worse.

Our first fundraiser was a wonderful success, raising almost $700 to help support our rescue.  A huge thanks to Bingo Boy, drag queen Roxy Wood and the awesome Jodi, not to mention our WONDERFUL volunteer Alexandra Gaines, who got us a pile of fabulous prizes including Prada and Versace sunglasses, DVD’s, books, Vera Wang toiletries and much more!  If you missed it, we’re going to do it all again next year.  If you want to try out bingo before then, head over to Bingo Boy’s web site and see which other worthy charities are waiting for your support!

Seriously just TOO much fun!

Now, for some updates on all of our horses!

Coda, the old Arabian who came from the same property as Millicent, started back to work under saddle and showed that at 27, he’s still got it. Coda is available for adoption now – just click on “forms and policies” on the upper left to find out how you can make this well-trained but still spunky and sound Arabian a part of your life.

Thank you Bridget for putting the first rides on Coda!

Thank you Bridget for putting the first rides on Coda!

Another available adoptable is China. We thought we had the perfect match for China, but they decided they wanted a younger horse, so she is still available. She is extremely well trained and just a sweetheart but not a beginner horse. No bad behavior, but sensitive and wants a rider with good hands and a quiet seat. China is an 18 year old Argentine Thoroughbred mare.

China with our volunteer Kailey.  Kailey is actually perfect for China but already has a Hanoverian, darn it!  :-)

China with our volunteer Kailey. China loves Kailey and is always perfect for her.

Next, we have Tolly who was free on Craigslist – as we all know, a dangerous place for a horse to be. She was advertised as an ex polo pony and that’s exactly what she was – an Argentine mare, 20 or 21 years old, who had been retired a few years earlier and given to a not-so-great rescue which then adopted her out in poor condition to a good home which recently ran low on funds due to serious health issues in the family. We got a ton of history on Tolly from people who had played her in the past, and from all reports, she is just a wonderful, well behaved horse and a great confidence builder. She has had her feet and teeth done and we are pretty confident she won’t be around here too long.

Tolly is adorable and requests food almost as loudly as Monty does!

Tolly is adorable and requests food almost as loudly as Monty does!

Tosca is our newest rehab horse. She was at a barn in the San Diego area, an ex-polo pony (apparently her name used to be Jilly, if that jogs anyone’s memory) who had recently been purchased by a new owner but had a wreck shortly thereafter when she tried to jump out of an arena she had been turned out in. She has two major issues: a severely underrun heel on one front hoof, and a case of fibrotic myopathy that is causing lameness on the hind right. Tosca was identified as a Thoroughbred mare named Captured Audience. She is sweet and has lovely manners. We are taking some time to let her feet grow out and will take it from there; however, we are open to a foster-to-adopt situation for her with the right person who is committed to her rehab (and sensible handling in the future so that she doesn’t have another wreck – never think that a panicked horse WON’T jump to try to get back to the other horses, you’d be amazed what they will do if they are sufficiently freaked out!)

How gorgeous is this mare?

Of course we can’t forget our retirees! Monty is heading up to Central Coast Polo this weekend to join Juesa on the beautiful pasture there. We had to take him off the adoptable list due to stumbling under saddle. It’s important to us that we don’t adopt out as rideable a horse that we feel truly has a problem that may make even light riding unsafe, so he will stay with us. The cost of maintaining our permanent retirees runs around $1100 per month, and right now we have just one $25 monthly sponsorship toward those costs. One of the best ways you can help us – and keep an old horse safe and fed – is by signing up for a monthly sponsorship. Check out the links below to make either a one-time donation or sign up for a monthly donation. Remember, all donations are fully tax-deductible!

If you don’t have or don’t like Paypal, checks may be mailed to: Polo Pony Rescue, 842 S. Citrus Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

One time donation – pick your amount!

Monthly subscription- will be deducted from your bank account every month until you tell Paypal to stop. These are VERY much appreciated! You can direct your sponsorship toward a particular horse if you like, or you can subscribe for a different amount – just let us know and we’ll help you get it set up.

Monthly Donations