Polo ponies are, as a general rule, very social creatures. They tend to be generally laid back and have small personal space bubbles, compared to the general horse population.
Hardy, low maintenance and used to jostling around in close proximity, they are ideal candidates for group boarding situations. That’s why a lot of our ponies live in spacious paddocks with a bunch of other polo horses. But not all of them.
Many owners choose smaller sheltered runs, either individual or double, for their horses. There are several common reasons for this, explained below. Read on to weigh the pros and cons of run vs. paddock and determine which option is best for your ponies:
- Horses will be horses, and during the polo season they all have four shoes. Which means even more potential for serious damage due to kicks or strikes. Nobody wants to see that or to be forced to wait out a weekend of polo due to a horsey spat-related injury. And nobody wants their equine athlete to be beat up all the time, even if it’s relatively minor.
- Food access. If the pecking order is fierce and your horse is at the bottom, he or she may not get enough to eat or drink in a group situation. Depending on the situation, this can be a minor inconvenience or very serious problem. You have to gauge it based on your horse’s appearance and time of year. If the horse is an easy keeper and off for the winter, she might be fine eating less. But you may have to change locales during the season when she’s working hard and needs every extra ounce she can get.
- Boarding with us (and typically anywhere), paddocks are cheaper than double runs, which are cheaper than single runs. If your horses are just hanging out for the winter, enjoying some time off, you may wish to choose the cheapest option that works, and then upgrade come polo season.
- You may want your horse(s) to have more individualized shelter for bad weather days. Again, low-on-the-totem-pole horses often get ostracized from shelter by their paddock mates. You also may want a space that gets mucked more frequently.
Ultimately, each owner must decide for him or herself what is best for his horses. It may take some trial and error and powers of observation, but you’ll figure it out!
Here at the DPC, polo has a helpful rhythm for that kind of reassessment, because we move our horses out to and back from the polo fields every spring and fall, creating a natural break to change your ponies’ digs if necessary.