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Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Morgan Lindsay Moore
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Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Morgan Lindsay Moore on Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:06 pm

These photos were taken over many years, just put them together to make this assignment. As a result, some images are lower quality.

In the days before the internet was a prominent way to find horses, polo ponies not imported from Argentina were found in kill pens/feed lots, in claiming races, local auctions, and in trainer's barns behind the tracks. They were most often (and still are) failed Thoroughbred race horses. They were never labeled as rescues, but polo was often these horses' last hope at a new start. The polo players often purchase them without papers- pedigrees mean nothing and they are always re-named. Texas Tea. Cricket. Gorda. Chanel. Orphan Annie... something random, usually short, often descriptive in some way.

My family had a polo club while I was growing up and our farm housed hundreds of these horses over the years. They each had a story to tell. Here are a handful.

Molly just passed away a few short weeks ago at the age of 28. She was our first horse. My mother received a free polo lesson, which she took on a then-three-year-old Molly and she purchased the mare on the spot. Her first horse ever. Molly had a circular scar under one eye and suffered chiropractic issues and EPM later in her life. Early on, she won best playing pony at the bronze cup and throughout her years she carried countless beginner riders. She was a kind mare to people, but aggressive with other horses and ruled her domain always. She too was a failed race horse plucked from an uncertain fate by a local polo pro. Her JC name was Go Funny Girl. When I met her I was 3 (her same age) and this is the angle I most remember looking up at her from. She was a kind soul.
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Morgan Lindsay Moore
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Re: Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Morgan Lindsay Moore on Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:09 pm

Fate was a lop eared mare who abhored touch, but was an exceptional "worker." She excelled at everything she tried from polo, to hunter over fences, to jumpers, to barrel racing, to pony club, to trail riding. Her registered name was Nalee's Alissa and she managed a measely place out of her race career on the track. The story was her front teeth had been knocked out by an angry owner from the track, but no one really knows. She was bought from a kill buyer right before she was to be loaded on a truck on the farm at the same time as the polo players seeking prospects were evaluating horses. The polo player that picked her up named her "Fate" because she had narrowly escaped her end. She was perpetually headshy and her front nubs of front teeth were unsighlty at best. She graced the cover a polo magazine in her prime. Today she is still alive, mid-twenties, retired to a 30 acre pasture.
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Morgan Lindsay Moore
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Re: Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Morgan Lindsay Moore on Thu Jan 28, 2016 12:58 pm

Towards the end of our days running the polo club, my mother began to take on additional boarders. These boarders, given we had a standard polo arena with goals and a maintained field, were often polo pros inbetween seasons or without a club for a season. Being a polo pro is a very migrant lifestyle unless you are at an established club. The seasons require frequent moves (sometimes across the country) and the horses are always in tow. The pros, in general, take wonderful care of their horses : they are lean, but healthy and fit. The horses are their life blood. Unfortunately, when times are tough, these horses that travel with them can suffer if the pro loses sight of how important it is to focus on the horses. Like any sport, the polo industry has a few that don't deserve horses.

One summer, in between seasons, a polo pro parked his herd at our farm. The entire herd was comprised of retired thoroughbred race horses. The herd was in rough shape and the pro rented the back pasture from us, self care. Only, he wasn't bringing in supplemental hay. On one of my rides around the property I came across a horrifying sight shortly after his arrival: a chestnut gelding tied to a tree near the pasture. His head was bloody, he was incredibly thin, wormy, listless. It looked like he had been left there for the 2 days he had been in town. I jumped off my horse and attempted to drag the poor gelding back to the main barn. It took four men to lift him into the trailer and his kidneys failed shortly after his arrival at the vet and he passed away. Though, it was clear the horse was suffering from a colic that had gone untreated or monitored. The vets turned his name (and photos of the horse) over to the authorities.

After that, the pasture of horses got a close inspection, we provided the hay and ensured they were wormed. One other horse stuck out- a gray mare with feet over 1 foot long each in the front. She stood with her weight on her hind like she was in the process of foundering and had a large, poorly healed wound on her front right. The mare had a wormy looking belly. We pulled her out, brought her to the barn and called the vet for further evaluation. The mare was indeed foundered, had a fracture to her left front coffin bone that had managed to heal, and was pregnant. The owner chose to sign her over to us (though he had no papers). She had been his best pony for the higher goal games and her tattoo labeled her as Gentiana. Gentiana's story, before being transferred to her life as a polo pony, was as a failed race horse. Her breeders were smaller breeders and when I contacted them for papers they were ecstatic to hear she was in a safe place and instantly offered to help get the mare into our name. Unfortunately, the x-racehorse sire of the unborn foal was un-identified and the foal went on to be un-registered.

We named her "Fancy Fool" a play off of some of her lineage on her dam's side which was heavily Tom Fool bred. My mother has kept Fancy all these years. She was a hot young horse and played polo in her younger days, but was never quiet enough to be a trail horse. She is an incredible mover, but somewhat difficult in temperament. Today she enjoys a larger pasture, shared with other x-racehorses and is the youngest of the band of Thoroughbreds my mother looks after.
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Morgan Lindsay Moore
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Re: Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Morgan Lindsay Moore on Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:08 pm

Black Deer was a Thoroughbred mare purchased from a horse trader who brokered retired racehorses to polo players, horse trainers, and meat plants. She went through a year of training before my mother met and purchased the mare. She got her name because during the week, on days when the ponies weren't playing, grooms would race them to see who had the fastest horse. Black Deer always won, so her name went from "Black" to "Black Deer". She is actually a bay with a mealy muzzle and carmel eyes. She was never an easy horse to ride. She wore a tie down and a double twisted berry gag when she played. She had to be galloped one chukker before she went on the field to blow her out enough so that a non-pro could play her. When not on the field, she had to be kept in a trailer or she would pull back and run on the field after the ball. She once dumped a pro who attempted to hold her back during a play and she completely terrified riders who were not incredibly confident. She was my personal favorite to ride as a child. My mother sent Black Deer to West Palm Beach to be marketed and sold to high goal players towards her retirement of the club. Black Deer was incredibly talented which translated to being extremely high value in the right market. Unfortunately, she sustained a career ending injury (bone infection) during her time in training. She survived and today enjoys a large pasture. She still looks young, despite her advanced age. Her tattoo identified her as Admiral Sue, a racehorse with an unremarkable career with a name that called back to War Admiral who was buried deep within her pedigree.
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Morgan Lindsay Moore
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Re: Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Morgan Lindsay Moore on Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:14 pm

There are 34,000 Thoroughbred registered a year and only one can be a Kentucky Derby winner. The rest of these horses face an uncertain fate. Some are lucky enough to go back into breeding programs, some end up in the Thoroughbred makeover, others find careers as sport horses or find their way into racehorse rehoming programs. Unfortunately, thousands still face uncertain ends. The options are limited beyond these programs. Polo is a venue which craves racehorses not quite fast enough for the track or slightly too aggressive and assertive for a sport horse use. At the same time, polo is not an easy life. Injuries are frequent and like any equine sport, it all depends on who owns them in the end. The polo industry is struggling in many parts of the country and the hope is that there will be a resurgance of interest in some of these quieter communities which will translate to more opportunities for recycled racehorses to find a new purpose.
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Sharon Packer
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Re: Horses in Need project 2015: Polo Pony cycle

Postby Sharon Packer on Fri Jan 29, 2016 11:27 am

Incredibly beautiful work, Morgan! I've owned two recycled race horses. I highly recommend the effort it takes to establish trust, bring them back to good health and retrain for a happy job. Thoroughbreds have huge hearts and will give you 100%. :salute:
Sharon Packer
Horse Sports Photography, LLC
http://www.HorseSportsPhotography.com


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