If you haven’t had the experience of watching a polo match, it’s something to definitely get on your schedule. While different from the horse show circuits many of us know well, polo offers a different, fast-pace way to enjoy the sport of horseback riding. Jonny Lavine, who currently plays for the University of Miami polo team, was happy to tell us how he got into the sport, what makes a good polo pony and what he finds necessary around the stable.
We love polo, but don’t get the chance to talk with many polo players! Tell us how you got into the sport. Did you ride in other disciplines before getting into polo?
Riding has always been in my family. My father loves to ride, however does not take up any particular sport associated with it. My sister Lauren rode Sadlebreds for about ten years. During that time span is when I got into riding; I was around seven years old. I participated in the walk/trot events at horseshows. It wasn’t until later when I was about thirteen that I really got into polo, which was a disadvantage because many of the other kids my age had been playing for years. My father encouraged me to learn how to play. My first polo lesson was with one of the greatest polo legends, Carlos Gracida, and after that lesson I was instantly hooked on the sport.
Do you have a favorite venue to play at? What about a favorite team to play against?
My favorite venue to play at would have to be the International Polo Club. The crowds there are always fantastic and the fields play amazing. I don’t particularly have a favorite team to play against, but rather I love playing against my friends. For me, that is when I play the hardest.
You must need to have a few ponies to play polo, tell us about yours.
My horses for the most part all have good dispositions. They are relaxed when simply riding, but are ready to play when it’s time to. My favorite horse is a small bay gelding named George, who I got from Ruben Gracida. George has the most personality out of any horse I have seen, and often enjoys resting his head on my shoulder whenever he can. His ability on the field always impresses me with how much heart he always puts into the game.
What qualities make a good polo pony?
When I look for a good polo pony, I make sure to look for a horse that has great stamina, speed, quick lateral movements and a light mouth.
What do you think are the most important skills for an aspiring polo player to have?
I think having patience is a must in this sport, more specifically patience with the horses. So many things must be done before a polo player can simply hit the ball between the goal posts. For example, exercising the horses, stick and balling, practicing, tending to the horses’ needs and lastly comes tournament games. The rider and the horse must have synergy with each other in order to get a good chucker out of the horse, and this is achieved through persistence and patience.
What are three things in your stable that you can’t live without?
- The Equine Comfort Cotton Correction Pad. I use these pads for exercising the horses as well as games. I love the size of them and how they always form to each horse’s withers and back perfectly.
- Stable fans. I have to have fans running all the time to help control the flies and keep the horses comfortable in the Florida heat.
- Lastly, I have to have a clean and organized tack room so I can find everything quickly.