The Death of Prince Harry’s Polo Pony Is Not an Isolated Incident

Posted by 7 years ago | Permalink | Comments (23)

The death of Drizzle, a pony Prince William and Prince Harry used for polo, has been in the news recently. According to media reports, Prince Harry was taking part in the second half of a charity match when he realised that Drizzle was struggling. Within minutes of being retired from the match, Drizzle suffered a heart attack and died.

The media are reporting Drizzle’s death as little more than an unfortunate incident. A guest at the match told The Mail on Sunday that “[i]t was very lucky that Harry rode her off because we were spared the gruesome spectacle of watching the pony die”.

Whilst the cruelty involved in horse racing is attracting more and more criticism, little attention has been paid to the plight of ponies used for polo, but the death of Drizzle is by no means an isolated incident.

Polo is very gruelling for the ponies – who are forced to constantly stop and start and make sharp turns. Ankle injuries are common. The whip is used extensively. Sudden deaths – either during a match or shortly after a match – are not uncommon.

Yet again this shows that whenever animals are exploited for “sport“, their welfare comes in a distant third behind winning and making money.


  • Ian commented on May 13, 2010 at 8:49 am

    These aren’t the only welfare problems horses face. They’re expensive to keep and live for a long time so many horses go through many different owners over the course of their lives. Many end up in riding schools which are businesses at the end of the day and they could be at risk from poor care or cost cutting. Horse deaths in sport are terrible but a lot more goes on that most people don’t know about.

  • KT commented on May 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I feel so ashamed sometimes that the Royal family, who represent our country, are often contributers to animal cruelty.

  • Edward commented on May 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

    This is not an example of animal cruelty; the death of a polo pony at or soon after a match is very rare, certainly to describe it as ‘not uncommon’ is simply untrue. Also although the sport is physically demanding of the pony they are bred for it and are given excellent care off the pitch to ensure they are in the best physical condition possible to play. Unlike in racing where the horses are retired and often disposed of at an early age a polo pony can usually play for most of its natural life. The whip is sometimes used but again ‘extensively’ is an exaggeration. Most people who play polo love their ponies and take good care of them.

  • HV commented on May 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    There’s so much cruelty in the horse world, I wish they would ban all whips and spurs and make bitless bridles the norm. That would really show who actually has a partnership with their horse.

    • DG commented on October 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Clearly someone that has never worked with animals.

  • Charissa commented on May 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I hope that news like this helps to widen more people eyes against these kind of sports where animals suffer for someone else’s enjoyment.

    • dana commented on July 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm


  • Brien Comerford commented on June 2, 2010 at 12:31 am

    The Royal family is a mixed bag of inhumane hunters and genuine animal lovers. It would be idyllic to have a vegetarian King or Queen.

  • Sue Smith commented on June 4, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I agree with KT – the royal family are shameful and if not actually participating, often condone the likes of fox hunting, stag hunting and the general use of animals in the name of ‘sport’, which is only glorification for humans……….do animals care if they win a rosette, cup or trophy? I think not.

  • Lesley Robinson commented on June 6, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    It always amazes me that anyone could refer to an animal that has been raced to death, as has Harry’s pony in this awful case, as “beloved”.

  • Lesley Robinson commented on June 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I’m so pleased for the spectators, who, by Harry’s swift action in taking the animal off the field, didn’t have their lovely afternoon spoiled in any way by “being spared the gruesome spectacle of watching the pony die.” I feel so much better for knowing that NOT.

  • kristie commented on June 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    The author of this piece obviously knows nothing about polo. I was a polo groom for 4 years and never saw ponies dropping dead. The link provided was related to an incident caused by a pharmacutical company – nothing to do with the death of Harry’s pony.

  • jasmin commented on April 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    This article is highly twisted and extreme and gives such a false view on the sport. I have been a polo groom for over 2 years and not only do I adore the ponies I take care of but so does the owner. After going to 3 matches per week for two seasons I have only ever come across one death from heart attack (not any of mine) which compared to statistics for racing is f*cking fantastic. The ponies play for less than 6 months of the year and have the rest of the time off chilling and eating in the field with their friends. I have NEVER seen anyone play with a whip so not even sure where that comment has come from?! Each pony is on for less than 5 mins per game and is booted up to the 9’s and washed and examined as soon as it comes off. In my experience these horses live a good life compared to dressage horses that are kept confined and never see a blade of grass. Apart from playing they live a close to natural life out in the field and thoroughly enjoy their job. This article is sickening and out of context twisting a freak accident/death.

  • dana commented on July 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I recently photographed a polo match and upon looking closely at the photos I took I was appalled to see how grueling it looks up-close thru the view of my telephoto lens. I am a professional photographer and would like to be able to use these photos to promote the cause of polo being unkind to the horses. Any suggestions or known resources where these photos could be used to shed light on the sport?

  • linda commented on December 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Speaking with an ex polo groom on Wednesday this week. What happened to this pony is not an isolated event – ponies are often hurt very badly during the matches – particularly in the mouth, she said she was told to stand at the side where the ponies are tied and after every chukka had to wash their mouths with a sponge and the bucket of water was always full of blood by the time she had finished. Many are injected in order to continue to be ridden after being hit by balls and sticks, when they should be retired. One time one of the ponies who was tied up at the side of the ground was hit between the eyes with a ball and dropped dead by the side of my friend – many if not performing well or having an off day got shot immediately and their body collected by the hunt. NB: West Sussex well known polo field. My friend left her job very quickly.

    • HR commented on October 7, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      I’ve been a polo groom for 5 years and I go to up to 3 matches PER DAY for the summer season. I have never seen a horse die as a result of playing polo. I have seen injuries but major injuries are rare. The majority of injuries are no worse than human athletes experience in their chosen discipline. Horses are not allowed to play if they have blood on them, regardless of how superficial the wound is. A welfare officer is present at all games and a vet is on call, if not present.
      I have NEVER seen a horse being “injected in order to continue”. This is illegal and would result in the suspension of the player. In addition, horses are not shot for having an “off day”; these animals are expensive and players do not waste capital on pointless euthanasia when they can make money from selling the animal. Please check your facts.

  • linda commented on December 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Continued – yet another friend of mine used to rescue polo ponies (with his late wife) One pony had to have his mouth stitched up after being rescued and also had many other old scar wounds that had previously been stitched. He took 2 years to get over his traumas and thereafter ridden in a Bitless bridle.

    Certain people have too much money, are not animal lovers and polo ponies are a item that is so easily discarded and then replaced by people with more money than they know what to do with just like greyhounds, race horses…………………………….etc. Never enough control in the animals favour

    Have just rescued one myself – so headshy and scared – so very sad

  • linda commented on December 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    PS often many are abandoned at the end of the year Jasmin if not disposed of – out to fend for themselves dumped in a field – no rugs / feed / shelter – know this from personal experience

  • JAMES FARIS commented on April 9, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I think it is always best to avoid doing anything that is forced to any animal. If the animal could talk, this would be a different situation. As we can’t know how they feel, we should just leave them alone.

  • Rhoda Ochoa commented on August 2, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    gdi PETA, this is why I can never trust you, even though I agree with you on some things. Some other posters have already done a great job covering how out of touch/off base from reality this article is. This is why any conversation amongst actual horse people about strengthening animal cruelty laws (which most of us do see a need for) have to involve at least some degree of “yeah, we need this, but what about the idiot public who could easily be convinced that a horse that just had a good roll in the mud is neglected”? And the bitless bridle comment from one of the responses above. Ahahahaha. Yeah, you try stopping an excited, incredibly fit horse galloping with other horses in a big, open area with your bitless bridle. Ugh. We really do love our horses though. I have a 27 year old sitting in a pasture (not just thrown out there and forgotten either) as of this writing.

  • pam green commented on September 22, 2015 at 8:35 am

    we all know if you have enough money you can do exactly as you want with animals, horses are raced till they drop dead,( sure a top race horse winner belonging to the QUEEN ” found ” in a very run down condition after being passed around.& how much tack is on a polo pony,animals have feelings too, try putting yourself in there position.

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