Brown Eyes, the frog killing Polo pony
( Note: Polo Ponies are never
trotted at any time while being exercised, as this could
lead to their dropping to a trot during the game and losing the rider as
s/he bends over to hit the ball.
If you ever do train their mount to trot from a canter, you might find out how fast you can run and how long you can hide. )
Brown Eyes was unique in appearance. A sealskin bay Thoroughbred, she had large, limpid Arabian eyes which looked at you as if she were one of the poster waifs for "Feed the Children", yet she was willing, able and a real 'go getter' of a polo pony. In the winter, she further augmented her 'adore me' look with a soft, thick plush coat that made her look like a child's stuffy. Indeed, she looked like you would want her on your bed next to your pillow. She was a joy to ride, having a gentle rocking chair canter that would put an insomniac to sleep, and such was her loving and gentle demeanor, we never guessed at the dark side of her nature.
Until one day in early Spring.....
We were starting the polo ponies out slowly because they
had been out to pasture all winter.
Just a nice walk and short, slow gentle canter were all that were called for here. Our choice of mounts was often gauged by which horse we were able to catch, and the order of exercise was gauged by which horse we were able to catch first. I should have recognized the red flag when Brown Eyes came eagerly to me and pushed her nose into the halter I was trying to hide behind my back, bypassing the grain bucket in my hand entirely. Oh, the warnings we miss when we think we've found an easy road!
Since it had been rainy, Butch and I chose the grassy side strip of the main polo field rather than a muddier track. Butch was chasing down Black Arrow while I tacked Brown Eyes, so I was out first.
Brown Eyes walked placidly and solidly to the grassy side strip and around it a few times, giving no indication of her hidden agenda. I asked for a slow canter. With glee, my mount complied, however this was a canter I had never before or since experienced. We went sideways, backward and then hopped forward, all on three feet, while the fourth foot reached out at an unnatural angle and slapped the ground. The ground slapping foot was alternated between all four attached feet and it seemed there was not rhyme nor rhythm in the order. Once, we danced sideways for two hops on three feet and then upward and backward. I stopped and started Brown Eyes several times, of course, trying to find out which leg was semi-detached and why the new and very strange gait. She walked sound, only starting this strangeness at the canter. After only a few starts at this, I decided my mount was either lame or crazy, so I walked her about waiting for Butch. We didn't have long to wait until Butch came out with Black Arrow and I hailed her over to see where Brown Eyes was lame. Butch watched her for a few minutes and stated she was as puzzled as was I. Then Butch said to try her once more before we called for the vet, so I complied. This time, instead of watching the entire horse, Butch watched only her flying feet. Sure enough, the problem was discovered. Tiny frogs were hopping about in the grass and Brown Eyes was intent on murdering every one.
Apparently this mare had watched these frogs jumping about
from her pasture which bordered the grassy strip of the polo field, became
intrigued and couldn't wait to see how these creatures felt under her feet.
Now horses, like elephants, don't usually step on something strange, ( Note: an offending human's foot is not strange, but all too familiar. ) however, Brown Eyes was determined to leave no frog untouched. It was several minutes before Butch and I could continue because of the stitch in our sides from laughing.
I have never before or since beheld this phenomena, nor
ridden such a strange gait.
At that time, I didn't even know it was possible for a horse to canter backwards on three feet while slapping a tree frog with the fourth. Thank You Brown Eyes, for that unusual and humorous experience. I'm happy you weren't lame, may you live long and prosper where ever you are now.
Mike Whaker and Quicksilver riding an opponant off the ball,
with Mike's teammate waiting to gain the ball.
John F. Ivory Polo Club, Union Lake, Michigan.
These horse stories are the true experiences of D. Clarke
If you want the book, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org