Getting the right Horse
A well-bred horse is an asset, and such assets don’t come cheap. Read on for an overview on horses
Polo without a horse is useless. The game is not only about the technique for a rider; if there isn’t a good horse, you can do nothing. The polo horse is not any normal horse, but a well-bred and trained one. And these usually cost a couple hundred to thousands of dollars. According to Chirag Parekh, chairman and managing director of the Acrysil Group: “Eighty per cent of the polo game depends on horses. Polo ponies are not born, they are made.”
The cost of a horse depends on the breed. In India, specific breeds include the Marwari and the Kathiawari. The cost of horses vary. It’s possible to find a free horse, if it has been rescued or for certain reasons, is unwanted by the owner. Horses with champion bloodlines cost a couple of million dollars.
According to a veteran polo player, India has about 500 polo ponies and this number is increasing due to an increase in the interest for the sport. “The maintenance cost per horse goes up to Rs 1 lakh per year,” says Lokendra Singh, India’s premier horse trainer and one of the biggest sellers of polo ponies. Singh manages around 15 horses in his stable. These days, Indian players prefer imported horses to avoid the growing maintenance cost.
From where can we fine-bred horses for polo? One way is through imports, but that costs a lot. Jaipur-based businessman Rao Himmat Singh Bedla, a polo player imported four thoroughbred horses from Argentina, at an average cost of Rs 12 lakh, and that included about 36 per cent of transportation costs. Horses trained in India cost Rs 2 to Rs 5 lakh. According to British Polo player Hazel Jackson: “To buy a top horse, you would probably need £200,000 and the bloodlines in Argentina go for crazy money. It costs millions to run a high-goal team.”
Apart from importing horses, one can buy polo horses from Calcutta Polo Club or from fellow polo players who are unable to bear the expenses of the sport. There are many breeding shelters and local racetracks where one can buy fine horses. Like in Mumbai, there is the Mahalakshmi Race Course, where one can buy horses found useless for race work. They cost anything from Rs 50,000 to lakhs. Old horses, which have uneven skin colour will cost less as compared to the younger ones. The average cost of a good brown or black horse is Rs 1 to Rs 1.25 lakh.
One can also buy pure breeds, like the Marwari from cattle fair and festivals, like the Sonepur Cattle Fair and the Pushkar festival. If you buy an old mixed breed, horses would cost less than Rs 1lakh, but if you buy good indigenous breeds like the Marwari, you can get one, depending on the bloodline, for around Rs 3-5 lakh.