I need another pony.This is Simon, the star on my string of one, at Calgary Polo Club last summer. To play 4-chukker Club League this summer, I need at least two ponies. I’ll have to double them (play them for two chukkers each), which isn’t the best, but it’s within the rules — and at my mellow pace, it’s not too hard on them. Right Simon?Part of my Palm Springs mission, besides enjoying a break from the brutally long Calgary winter, was to come home with another pony. For advice, the first person I turned to was Kyle Fargey. He’s a 3-goaler who runs the polo schools at Calgary Polo Club in the summer and Eldorado Polo Club in the winter. Since stick and balling a horse can be totally different than playing one, it’s advisable to try a new one in a game. Even though his ref shirt makes it look pretty serious, Kyle organizes friendly matches all season long. The horse he’s helping me with here is Lobo, one of his school string. I’ve ridden Lobo many times and he’s one of my faves. Just one little problem — he’s not for sale.I love Lobo, Kyle! Why don’t you just sell him to me? It would make this weekend a lot easier.Another problem? My budget. It wasn’t big, but I had a strategy, visiting the second last weekend of the season in Indio, when players would be looking for good homes for their older, slower ponies, to make way for their own new acquisitions. Tucker was the first pony I tried.Great chukker, Tucker! Boy, did we have a good time. This 16-year-old desert pony has played 4-goal most of his life. This year he played 1-goal at Empire Polo Club, which is still pretty darn fast. But he was perfect for me, with an easy-going, adorable disposition.But it’s a big world out there, with a lot of horses to become emotionally attached to. Next was Carlitos. His owner is so fond of him, he wasn’t even officially for sale. Saddled up, his hide bleached out from the sun, Carlitos looked mellow. When I took him out to stick and ball, it was love at first ride. Super-responsive with a comfortable canter… but then the mellow gave way to a need for speed that my riding abilities just couldn’t handle.Still, look how cute he was afterward! I found myself thinking that if I got him off the oats, and he realized he wasn’t playing 8-goal any more, maybe he’d slow down for me. Then I had to get a grip. Pretty pony or not, I can’t go buying a horse I can’t play in a test chukker. Still, thanks for your help, Bree!Over my long weekend in the desert, I tried so many ponies I don’t have pictures of them all. I only remembered to grab a shot of Tango at the last second — after trying him turned into an hour of pro Santos Arriola analyzing my swing. Thanks Santos! Unfortunately, Tango was too much horse for me. I’m not ready yet to stop on a dime and turn like lightning. I need a pony that will help me out when I give him mixed messages and wrong signals! Or at least ignore them.
Check out this video shot by Santos, giving all the right signals, in both Spanish and English.Back to Tucker. I was getting serious about him. Time for another chukker with Kyle’s Coaching League. Wish we had video of us scoring a goal in the first minute! It just added to the love story.I didn’t mind his knock knees — he felt sound in the game.Conveniently, Calgary vet Candace Crosby, was also playing in Coaching League that day and was available to do a vet check. Many polo peeps will tell you they don’t do a vet check on an older horse, because they just won’t pass. But in addition to his asking price, I was looking at an added cost of almost $1000 for the 3-day trip to Calgary and his border papers. I knew I needed someone to be logical. Because I was swooning over Tucker.After checking his teeth, Candace told me he was probably older than 16, although in polo, you almost don’t need a vet to tell you a horse is older than the owner says. It doesn’t mean they’re lying. For some reason in this sport that I can’t figure out, no one seems to know exactly how old their ponies are. However, I’m not ageist — I like older horses. I was told Simon was 24 when I bought him, but others have put him closer to 100.Candace did a thorough flexion test, checked his toed-out conformation and gave me a long list of issues. They didn’t appear to affect his game, but I had a lot to think about.Palm trees and pools make contemplation easier. If I didn’t have to ship Tucker to Canada, I probably would have bought him, but I decided not to go for it. There was another horse I really liked, but I got out-bid. So now, with June practice chukkers starting soon, I’ll be pony shopping in Alberta. Hopefully another steed will come my way and I’ll be in love all over again.