9th August 2018
Reports on Colonial incidents of fatal accidents in Polo
Polo enjoyed a rather bewildering popularity during the colonial times particularly in the indian Subcontinent. With tournaments running relentlessly across the year, polo was bound to create sensational and often scandalous issues. Newspapers and magazines were filled with polo updates and the most ubiquitously contemptuous headline polo could invite- “Another Fatal Accident at Polo.”
Deaths on polo ground had become so regular that people had started questioning the very usefulness of polo as a sport altogether. The famous polo historian, writer and enthusiast, Moray Brown summed up the various reasons which were considered to be responsible for increased death toll on polo fields.
The two major accusations were levied upon the hard and imperfectly maintained grounds and the badly-bitted and imperfectly trained ponies. Moray Brown declared that “The hard ground is certainly an evil that can not be got over”. Even though ponies were trained in England but Indian youngster seemed to have chosen likely-looking ponies and did not train them properly. As Brown highlights “The animal who hasn't been hustled about amongst a number of other ponies, gets frightened, unmanageable and forthwith, in his blind terror, bangs into another pony. There is a smash and the “another Fatal Accident at Polo” heads a paragraph in the newspaper.
Another major accusation was put on the use of blinkers and universally acknowledged so. Brown despicably declares “Blinkers are abominations and ought to be forbidden on the polo ground. Blinkers were promoted in use on account of ponies being ball-shy, but they invariably caused fatal accidents as nearly blind ponies failed to see the advancing adversaries and simply ended knocking each other.
Finally, the biggest accusation was the dramatically increased size of the pony from 11.5 hands (one hand equals to 4 inches) to which Horace Laffaye referred as the average mount height of the Calcutta Polo Club, unthinkable to today’s players. Ponies above 14 hands were prohibited until 1895. Even though this charge held sway for some time, but as fast twisting and turning on bigger ponies become a common sight the height of ponies started to grow officially. During the two apocalyptic World Wars many horses died causing a big jolt to polo but since then the height of polo ponies has never been questioned.