What Horses Are Used for Polo? A Complete Guide


Polo horses are required to have good stamina, to reach high speeds, and achieve bursts of energy even after the previous exercise. The breed of horses can depend from country to country; however, in the USA, thoroughbreds are widely popular. In fact, most horses used for polo are now preferred if they have thoroughbred throughout their blood. 

Nowadays the majority of polo ponies in the USA are at least 75% Thoroughbred, if not more. Frequently you’ll find that Thoroughbred are crossed with American Quarter Horse in order to make the perfect polo pony.

Different Kind of Horses Used for POLO

American Quarter Horses are known for being the fastest horse at completing a quarter of a mile, which is how they gained their name. This aspect is desired in polo, fitting in with the above statement of ‘bursts of energy’, to run in able to catch the ball before their competitor reaches it. 

Despite this, however, Quarter horses are not the fastest over a longer distance; this is where the cross of Thoroughbred horses comes in. Thoroughbreds are typically used for racing and trained not to stop once they are moving. They can maintain the pace for longer and have great long-endurance fitness levels. 

POLO Horses

Although polo uses the term ‘ponies,’ they are actually full-grown horses. Rather large horses, in fact. It is more of a reference to their agile frame. Normally polo ponies would have their tails dock trimmed, and then the skirt is braided. Manes are roached to prevent the risk of them becoming tangled in the mallet. 

In more recent times, America has grown a liking to producing horses crossed with Thoroughbred and the Argentinian Criollo horses. These ponies really are ponies, with the maximum height reaching 14.3 hands. Criollo horses are known for their intelligence, and their small design makes them agile with high stamina, composing them as a perfect fit for polo. The smallest of Criollo horses can be around 13.2 hands. 

Stretching outside of the United States, other countries will favor different breeds for polo. In Australia, the Australian Stock Horses are the most common type for polo, otherwise known as a Stockhorse. Australian Stock Horses have been specifically refined to suit Australian conditions. They are a hardy breed known for their endurance and noted as having a good temperament. 

The Manipuri Pony is native to India. It is believed they were used as polo ponies as far back as the nineteenth century; in fact, the height restrictions for polo at the time were based on the scale of this pony. Mountain ponies from the Himalayas are also known for their participation in the sport. 

In England, a lot of polo ponies can be traced back to a Thoroughbred Stallion named Rosewater. Through breeding, the thoroughbred type has been given resilience and strong hind legs, which are ideal for carrying their riders at fast paces with quick, unpredictable turns. 

Polo pony requirements are not entirely based on breeds, more the skill set of the animal, and physical capabilities. As you’ll have noticed, the theme is agile, good endurance ability, and speed. This is a possible reason why many polo ponies are crossed breeds; to get the best out of each. The horses need to have a love for being active with a high level of energy. 

How much Do Polo Ponies Cost?

Polo horses can come at a great expense. Entry level horses will start at the price of around $5,000 reaching $15,000. However, if you were looking to buy a horse fully trained with previous polo experience, you could be looking at prices racking up to $200,000. Since each rider requires multiple horses for a single match, the cost only goes higher. 

Are Polo Ponies Male Or Female?

It is actually thought that a large number of polo ponies are female. A partial theory behind this is that they are considered to have a better nature, but it also significantly lies on the reproducing factor. Female horses are worth more due to their ability to bring offspring, especially if they have had a good success rate within the game.

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Are Polo Horses Treated Well?

Horses used for polo are treated better than they would be in many other sports. A lot of polo horses are ex-racehorses, who have been retrained for the game. This is ideal as the basic training such as being back ridden, shod, or trailer loaded are already achieved. On stud farms where the horses are treated with respect, they would be put out into pastures to graze during their retirement.

However sadly it is not unheard of for polo horses to get whipped into shape, literally. Then euthanized when they are no longer able to perform. It has been known for horses to get put to sleep either on the course, or directly after. 

Is Polo Harmful To Horses?

Horses that are used throughout polo are at risk of injuring tendons, splints, or other general wounds. The groundwork however has not been known to be any more dangerous than other athletic disciplines.

How Are Polo Ponies Trained?

You’ll find that polo ponies are trained in a similar manner to western riding. They are trained to react to pressure on the reins or along the neck, and all riders will only use one hand, to be able to hold the mallet in the other. 

They are taught to have no fear of bumping into other horses, or of the ball for that matter. To get a polo horse to where it needs to be it takes a lot of intensive, repetitive training. 

Final Word…

In conclusion, the breed of horse used for the game will differ depending on location. The main aim is to have a sleek, fast, responsive horse that works well with the rider and is adaptable within the game. Height is not a leading factor, with the requirements more leaning towards swiftness of mobility. 

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