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A polo pony

A polo pony is a type of horse used in the game of polo.



Depending on the period and location, the height of polo ponies has varied from about 13 hands in the sixteenth century to 16 hands and over.[1] Today, most polo ponies stand around 15.1 hands high, although it is not unusual to see a horse over 16 hh.

Although they are called a "pony", that is in reference to their type, rather than their size. True pony breeds typically stand a maximum of 14.2 hands high.[2]


Variations in breeds used, include mountain ponies from the Himalayas, Manipur ponies from Assam, Arabians and the ever popular Thoroughbred and its crosses.[1] In the United States, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are often crossed to make polo ponies, while in recent years crosses of Thoroughbreds and Criollo horses from Argentina have become popular.[3] In Australia, Australian Stock Horses are the most common breed to be used in polo.[4] [5]

During the early 20th Century in the United States a polo breed association was formed, complete with a stud book. The principal foundation sires were Thoroughbred race horses of small size.


Polo ponies need to be almost fearless, and not afraid to bump into other horses, and they can't shy at mallets swinging near their heads. They need to be quick and agile so they can turn and follow the ball through its many changing movements.

Docked and banged tail on a polo pony, photographed between 1910 and 1915
A modern polo pony's tail prepared for competition

Polo ponies have their manes hogged before a match and their tails are plaited up. This is done so that the polo mallet will not get tangled. Formerly, their tails would be docked and banged. Today, polo ponies in competition often have their dock trimmed or shaved, and the skirt of the tail is braided and folded up against the tailbone. The braid is tied off with a lock of hair excluded from the braid, or taped, or both tied off and taped.

There are several different periods of play in a game and each rider has one or two horses per period of play, which are called chukkas. There are usually 4-6 chukkas per match, each lasting 7 minutes.


  1. ^ a b Summerhayes, R S, Encyclopaedia for Horsemen, Frederick Warne & Co, London and New York
  2. ^ Ensminger, M.E. (1991). Horses and Tack (Revised Edition ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 11–12. ISBN 0-395-54413-0. OCLC 21561287.  
  3. ^ "What is a Polo Pony?". SportPolo. Reference 5/19/08.
  4. ^ Australian Stock Horse Society
  5. ^ ASH Ministerial Statement

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