Hold your horses! Delhi pollution has not spared Army ponies too
Horses at the Jaipur Polo Ground can breathe easy!
Much before the Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers were left breathless due to pollution in Delhi during the third Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground, the Army Polo and Riding Club (APRC) had amended its rules to ensure polo ponies didn’t suffer the effects of the toxic air.
After gauging the deteriorating air quality in Delhi, APRC convened an emergency meeting of its 15-member tournament committee in October and ruled that ponies during a polo match should be substituted every three to three-and-a-half minutes to ensure their health in “polluted surroundings”.
Normally, players change ponies after every chukker (round) of seven-and-a-half minutes. Under the amended rules that came into effect in October, players had to change ponies every three to three-and-a-half minutes.
Col Ravi Rathore, APRC chief executive, told Hindustan Times that the amendment -- first of its kind -- was made looking at the “extraordinary circumstances”. “We value our ponies as much as our polo players. The tournament committee was unanimous in its decision. Nowhere in the world has such an amendment been made… we wanted to ensure the health of our ponies as well of our riders,” said Rathore, a top polo player in the country.
A pony is estimated to cover around 5km during a chukker. A polo match, depending upon the handicap of the tournament, can be of 4 to 6 chukkers, with each chukker played over seven-and-a-half minutes.
“Though there is no scientific data on the effect of air pollution on horses, we still went ahead with the amendment as we thought if something is bad for humans it’s certainly bad for horses,” said Rathore.
“It’s a kind of organised breather; the umpires can blow the whistle if the ball goes out of play after three minutes. To ensure that no team is shortchanged, the umpires can halt the game only when the ball is not in play,” said Rathore.
RULE TO STAY
Former APRC CEO Col Navjit Sandhu, a seasoned polo player, told Hindustan Times that the rule will remain for the entire season. “The amendment cuts across all tournaments; be it a high or low-handicap tournament. There are 10 tournaments in the November-December season and all of them have to implement this rule,” said Sandhu.
The rule is likely to be extended to the February-March season as well given that pollution levels in Delhi “remain high till winter abates”.
With pollution levels worsening every season and polo being a winter sport (November-December and February-March cycles), the rule is unlikely to change in the future, Rathore said.