Wellingotn, Florida (PressExposure) May 01, 2009 -- Onlookers were stunned at the International Polo Club Palm Beach two weeks ago in Wellington as two horses collapsed on the field. As more horses appeared dizzy and fell, local veterinarians rushed to the grounds, ran cold water along the bodies of the horses and connected intravenous tubes to help the distressed horses breathe. Large blue screens were immediately brought onto the field to shield the public from the heart wrenching scene as horse after horse fell to the ground. A total of 21 horses perished that day.
Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson launched the investigation. All suspicion of infections or contagious diseases had been ruled out because of the rapidity of sickness and death. Officials suspected these deaths had been the result of a drug reaction, but at the time hay, feed and water were all examined. Necroposies were done and results showed there was an overdose of selenium, a common mineral needed for normal cell function, but toxicology reported the horses had 15 times the amount in their blood and as much as 20 times in their livers as normal.
The horses were part of the Lechuza Caracas international polo team. They had been scheduled to play polo that day, but as the horses were offloaded at the event, several of them had already died, and the remaining horses were staggering and having apparent respiratory problems. Authorities have now ruled out any deliberate acts after Franck's Pharmacy in Ocala admitted the incorrect amount of a vitamin compound had been mixed and given to the horses hours before they died. This dispelled the rumors flying around Wellington about performance enhancing drugs having been administered since polo ponies do not have to be tested for drug use as do the thoroughbreds and their jockeys.
Polo is very important to the economic growth and stability of Wellington. The purpose of the game is to move the polo ball down the field and hit the ball with a mallet through goal posts to make a score. Horses and players are in top physical health and as a score is made, the teams change directions. There are four players to a team.
Each time period is call a chukker which lasts seven minutes. Horses are usually switched out in three and a half minute intervals. During half time, spectators and guests walk on the field stamping out holes or divots made by the horses during the game. Tradition also includes sipping champagne while stomping... It is not hard to understand how polo truly is the "sport of the kings."
Polo ponies, as they are called, are very well trained, valuable and most often special to the players. It takes years to turn a horse into a "made pony," which is a well trained horse for riding, neck reigning with minimal pressure, able to use leg cues, and hold a gait without breaking, bucking or kicking. These horses are comfortable working with other horses under extreme physical pressure. Most United States polo ponies are thoroughbreds crossed with either arabians or quarter horses. In Argentina, however thoroughbreds are commonly crossed with the local criollo horses.
The competition continued this past Sunday with a tribute to the ponies who died. Guests and team members threw flowers into the nearby lake, bag pipes played and a moment of silence honored the lives lost here just a few short weeks ago.