Steeplechases, foxhunting, eventing, trailriding, and polo; all the horse activities make for an equestrian oasis in Aiken, SC. There are so many options for places to ride in the area, and unlike some equestrian paradises in the winter, Aiken has a pretty happening social scene! The Willcox, Malia’s, Tako Sushi, Aiken Brewing Company, Locals….so many great places for dinner and drinks!
Anyways, back to the horses! If you have seen equestrian sports in the olympics on TV, you have probably seen some large, athletic horses! Jumpers, eventing, and dressage has lots of warmbloods, maybe some thoroughbreds. Maybe you have watched some horse racing and seen the incredibly graceful and powerful thoroughbreds, or you have seen the gentle giants, clydesdales, pulling the Budweiser wagon in a parade. Polo ponies are literally a different breed! They are smaller, stocky, but nimble and athletic. The ones that we rode, and many like them, are from Argentina. They are bred from mixes of ranch ponies (quarterhorses), and thoroughbreds. They call a quarterhorse/tb mix an appendix horse.
Polo ponies are trained to accept being up close and personal with other horses. They must have a quick stop, quick turn, and quick acceleration. With that though, they also must be a quiet mount, that at the end of the chukker, will walk quietly back to the line. They are smart, aware of the ball, mallet, and other players. My friend that was down in Aiken for the winter had her horses in a paddock next to seven happy little polo ponies. The amazingly talented exercise rider for these ponies took my friends and I out to play a little polo on Sunday. This man typically will ride one of the ponies, and “pony” (tieing other horses to the one you are riding) the other 6 to exercise all 7 at once…amazing. Here are some pics from the adventure:
We had an awesome time. My horse’s name was Big Mayo, even though he was pretty small. We had a short little trail ride to the polo field, then did some warming up and practicing hitting the ball with the mallet, and then we played a little game. I have taken a couple polo lessons, but this was the longest amount of time that I had that mallet, and man, my right hand/arm is still sore!!
It was the perfect way to end the weekend, laughing and riding with my best girls. Just a couple more weeks until my wedding! Despite the fun, I was happy to come home to my lovely fiance and pup who were hard at work finishing last minute things up for the big day!! 🙂