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Perfection has its flaws - The story of Polo
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   12th Apr 2010   •   40,761 views   •   44 comments
This is the story of my horse, Polo. Yet it is not only about Polo, because you see her story is my story. In this day and age we often see things that have come to be known as 'fursonas', virtual creatures that Internet users have created to reflect their own personality. I suppose you could say they put themselves into animal form. Well, prepare to meet my fursona. This horse is as much a part of me as my own beating heart, and is more important to me than the light of sun. Polo is not just a horse to me. She is not a tool for competitions, an object for transport or a fun topic to write about. She is a reflection of my soul and the one true reason that my life has any meaning at all. I shudder to think what I might be doing right now if that crazy critter had never entered my empty life.



In April 2003, I got my first pony. A 20-year-old abused cart pony with a hard mouth, a hard head and a hard heart. I knew nothing about horses and nothing about riding. In fact, I knew so little that I had no clue I would outgrow my woolly wonder in a matter of months. With the purchase of Astro, however, came the biting of the bug. I'm sure that everybody reading this knows what I speak of when I say that once horses are in your blood, they will never leave your heart. Not even if you drain your veins into the sea. Now Astro was a grumpy and greedy old thing, but she soon learned to trust people. Unfortunately, being a grouchy old cart pony, she would walk. Just walk. Nothing else. At best we would have the occasional open-mouthed gallop toward food with a buck or 2 thrown in, but that was as good as it got. I adored my pony, but I simply could not learn to ride on her. Therefore, on the recommendation of the owner of our livery, it was decided that I should purchase a horse. I was a small, ignorant child and to be completely honest, I didn't care one way or the other what horse I got. I could barely tell one end from the other, so clearly I was never meant to make this choice. The horse came to us. The owner of our a livery had a friend who knew some people who knew some people... You know how the story goes. The bottom line is that this little Thoroughbred mare had been thrown away as a racehorse, apparently because of an attitude problem. She then tried her hand at polo, but it seemed that she desperately needed to get her brake pads replaced before she could be any use in such a sport, and so she came to us, on trial.

The Story of Polo

"A quiet, 5 year old mare. Perfect for a beginner! Don't waste your time on ponies, just buy a horse straight away." That is what I was told. Of course, pint-sized me did not care in the slightest. I was too ignorant to understand anything that was going on. It turns out that the mare was 3-years-old, she was skinny, she was insane and she was just about the furthest thing from 'perfect'. She was an ugly creature. Her mane was hogged, her coat patchy, some places black and some pale brown. She had the disproportional, awkward air or a horse still growing into itself. Though the one thing that stood out above all of this was her expression. Her dark eyes were those of a fighter, a true warrior who would keep fighting until she lay dead on the ground. She did not love, she did not trust and she did not bond. She was unique, individualistic and independent. She was an outcast, a rebel, and a reject... She was Polo, and beneath her many flaws was something so perfect that it could take one's breath away.

We had this scraggly creature on a week's trial. During this week, she got into some sort of epic battle with a plastic chair and log. I have no idea what these objects did to offend my horse, but she seemed determined to make them regret it! Unfortunately, the battle did not go as planned. The mighty warrior was defeated, left with a big bump on her nose, blood gushing from each nostril, and the ever-popular vet's bill. Well, everybody knows that you can't send damaged goods back to a shop. "You break it, you buy it. That's the rule." So, out of my mother's guilt and honesty, Polo became mine.

My instructor at the time was a young teenage girl. She was a mediocre rider with a kind smile and the ability convince fully ignorant people that she knew what she was doing. Thus, my lessons on Polo began. By 'lessons', of course, I mean clinging to the saddle for dear life with my reins hanging like washing lines while my 'instructor' lunged the horse. There were the long lessons, the short lessons, the good lessons, the bad lessons, the 'horse spooking at a cellphone alarm' lessons, the 'horse starting to gallop and buck while instructor is having a conversation' lessons, the 'horse distracting instructor by trying to kill its unfortunate rider, thus giving Astro an opportunity to steal instructor's peanut-butter sandwich' lessons, and just about every other type of lesson you can think of.

The Story of Polo

Thankfully, we did not stay at that place long. Due to a financial disagreement regarding the true reason our livery owner had been so eager to sell Polo to us, we packed our bags and left. Our new stable was somewhat bigger, better and more experienced. Once we were settled in and had been there a while, I came to the stable one day to grab my bridle and scamper off to retrieve my horse for my first jumping lesson! A few minutes later I realised that tacking up this beast was an impossible task, and scampered back into the stable yard to tug any random rider over to my horse to help me. Several thousand temper tantrums, a few painful bruises, and quite a few minutes later, the horse was bridled. The saddle went on without a fuss, and the rider joined it a short while later. Thus, we embarked on our epic journey, setting foot on the first rung of the rickety ladder to the showjumping world.

When ridden, there were four things that Polo always adored doing. She would gallop, as her racing trainers had taught her. She would turn very sharply, as her polo trainers had taught her, she would make a massive racket champing her teeth on the bit, because all good horses know that humans adore riding with a non-stop sound in their ears that greatly resembles fingernails scraping across a blackboard. Lastly, she would tug endlessly. We were like some sort of jack-in-the-box, that horse and I. She would tug. My instructor would tell me to tug her back. I would tug. She would tug harder. I would tug back. She would tug me down onto her neck, gallop, and turn. She sounds like a delightful creature for a young child to learn to ride on, does she not? Well, this delightful creature and I had our first jumping lesson with an amazing instructor. There was a 20cm cross set up in the middle of the arena, and I was told to trot my horse over it. Neither the horse nor I had ever jumped before, so we were clearly in this together. Or so I thought. Polo, it seemed, had other ideas. She tugged, (This was not entirely unexpected, of course.) she turned sharply, (Needless to say, neither was this.) and she galloped. (Need I say more?) Well, I obviously hung on for dear life and waited for her to stop, but jumping was in her blood now and Polo was keen to try it, though she wanted to play this game by her own rules. The first jump that my horse and I ever did was a mad leap over the 1,10m arena fence. I cleared this jump beautifully, soaring gracefully through the air to land hard on the other side. Then I opened my eyes to see where my horse had ended up. The first thing I saw was a set of alarmingly large hooves crashing to the earth right before my eyes, mere inches from my head. For a few moments I was too shocked to move, then I realised that my horse was loose, and I had to catch her, though she was still standing motionless beside me. The horse was unhurt, though the fence had been viciously punished for getting in her way. I stumbled to my feet and made a grab for the reins. Now, the horse chose to run away. This moment was the first turning point in our relationship. I remember it clearly, as though it was only yesterday. In one brief moment, our eyes met, and I realised that the reason she had not moved until I got up was because she was terrified that she had hurt me. Could this demon perhaps be an angel in disguise after all?

The Story of Polo

From there, life went on. She tugged, I tugged. We battled endlessly. We both jumped, though not always together. Often we would part ways in mid air or else I would flop neatly over the jump after she gracefully deposited me with a sudden, swerving run-out. We gradually improved and finally we began to compete at very low local shows. The spectators were all disgusted to see such a small child on such a large, crazy horse. (This proves how small I was, as my Polo horse is only 15hh.) Like any novice rider, I was desperate for my first rosette. We would enter class after class trying to get our hands on a clear round rosette, but one pole would always fall. To this day, I still completely believe that Polo was doing it to spite me. Show after show went by, and still we could not get that clear round. Finally, at our third show, my patience snapped. The clear round classes were over, and my horse had knocked again. I decided to enter a 70cm competition class, higher than I had done before. It was my first time ever jumping against the clock. Of course, Polo suddenly sensed that there was competition. She jumped like a cricket and flew around the course to finish third. I guess 50cm and 60cm clear rounds were too tame for her right from the start. She was always looking for something bigger.

Shortly after this, I became obsessed with galloping. I had always galloped, though at that time I finally learned to do it by choice. MY choice, not Polo's. Suddenly, I developed an ambition to be a jockey. Thankfully, there was a racing trainer just down the road who took his horses onto the track behind our livery for a workout every Saturday morning. He said that I could join in if I wanted to, so I did. We only managed to do this 2 or 3 times, but it always went down the same way. Polo and I would wait, tugging and jogging in circles with her teeth squeaking on the bit. Then the racehorses would arrive and we would tug and squeak more frantically than ever. Then Polo would try to start ahead of them, and I would end up spinning her in a circle. Then they would go and we would continue to spin for a few moments before Polo finally paid attention to my desperate cries of "They're leaving without us, you fool horse! After them!" After that, my little mare would spring merrily after them, weave her way effortlessly through the gaps, shoot past them with a level of speed that made their trainer's mouth drop open, and tug, jog and squeak all the way home. I believe I mentioned that she was a failure on the track, but I never said that she wasn't fast. That little horse could fly.

Due to her blistering speed that had finally been awakened by the fact that she had only one rider and a rider she had learned to trust, on her back, it was only natural that I would want to put my horse to the test in some sort of race. I was overjoyed when I found out about a gymkhana that included some short races, so I began to train fervently for it. It turns out that Polo was not a fan of training. She liked to gallop for fun, but those who attempted to train her to do it had to be punished. One day we were doing just that, training, when suddenly the legendary 'invisible horse-eating monster' attacked us. I'm sure all of us riders know of this beast. It seems to appear at very convenient times, such as when a horse is heading away from home, or when it's just too hot to ride, or the wind is blowing sand into their eyes. Well, this beast must have been very angry that morning, because Polo swerved violently away from it, charging under a low hanging tree branch. I was caught completely unaware and was knocked backwards out of the saddle by the branch. Polo kept moving, dragging me with her as my foot was caught in the stirrup. She only dragged me for a couple of strides before she realised what was happening, and then she stopped. She stood, trembling, and waited to see if I was all right. It was the fence-leap situation all over again, and it made me incredibly happy, despite the bruises and the ramifications. We never did that gymkhana. I chose to listen to my horse, and she had clearly told me that she didn't want to train for it. That was that, then. It was decided.

I soon outgrew my mad desire to be a jockey, mostly due to the vast increase in my height, and I made my debut in graded showjumping instead. Polo and I skipped the 80cm grade altogether, preferring to start in 90cm. Throughout 2006 we struggled to get our points to move up, but there was always that one pole falling... A few months after we started competing, the provincial Championships came up. We walked into that championship class with a fierce determination and somehow managed to scrape a clear round. She was an unknown horse, I was an unknown rider, I was by far the youngest rider, since all other riders my age would compete on ponies instead. We were underdogs through and through. As we walked into the arena, we saw that they had the prizes displayed on a table outside the judge's box. On the table was a trophy. Polo and I stopped and stared at it together. At that moment, I knew that she was not going to let me down. We went all out, screeching round corners and flying over jumps as we, the underdogs, struggled to beat the legends. I could hardly believe it when we flew over the last jump clear, and I was almost crying tears of joy as they announced our time. We had won by 6 seconds. Our first graded prize ever, and it was a first in the provincial championships. We got that floating trophy and to this day our names reside upon it. The Provincial 90cm champions of 2006.

After that, we began to place more often. We seldom had those sort of shining moments like with the championship, but we had made a name for ourselves. We soon got our points and moved up to 1m. Our first show at this higher grade, Polo placed third. The next show she won, beating 45 other adults and juniors despite our lack of experience. After that, everything fell apart. Polo began refusing and nobody could understand why. I tried everything, then finally decided to rest her. I tried to bring her back a few times. Sometimes she would get a place, only to be eliminated again. Every time I ended up putting her back into rest. Eventually we had all but given up competing altogether. Then, one day, I had to scratch the horse I had entered in the 1m class, and we decided that Polo would take his place. I went to that show expecting to be eliminated at the first jump. Well, we all know by now that Polo NEVER does what is expected of her. She won both classes easily. Next show, she placed second in the first class, then was eliminated again.

The Story of Polo

Well, since then we've had our ups and downs. She's a mysterious little horse, no doubt about it, and she is a winner when she wants to be. I have embraced the fact the Polo will never be the sort of horse I can rely on to bring home a red rosette every time, but I don't care. As long as she's Polo, she is perfect to me. I wouldn't change a thing about her! She's come so far from the bitter, untrusting, ugly 3-year-old that first came to meet me. As she grew, her build became utterly beautiful. Her coat darkens to jet black toward the end of Summer and in my eyes she is the prettiest creature in the world.

Polo simply enjoying life:
Lastly, I shall describe some of the weird and wonderful things Polo has done in the time I've known her. When I fail to bring her a peace offering of food, she will grab the nearest heavy food bucket and throw it at me. One time I tried to catch her shortly after releasing her after a ride, she kicked me hard in the back of the head. I wouldn't be here right now if I hadn't had my helmet on. Another time she was in her paddock while there was a show at our livery stable, and I was called up to get a prize on Finola. Polo heard my name, jumped out of the paddock, ran into the arena and stood in the line-up, awaiting her first prize. It took us a while to catch her after that, though the spectators all had a good laugh. Another time I was trying to convince my father to sit down on a plastic chair. He was stubbornly refusing, and I think this must have annoyed Polo slightly, for when he did finally try to sit down, she grabbed the chair away just before he could sit on it, and threw it at him. Hard. Come to think of it, Polo will throw just about anything when given the opportunity. Another thing she thoroughly enjoys doing is dunking her whole head into a water bucket, up to above her ears, then nodding it rapidly to splash anything and everything in the nearby vicinity.

Polo lifting a feed bucket:
Yes, my horse is stubborn, she is cheeky, she is dangerous, she is disobedient and she is my everything. When I look back now, thinking of all those endless battles, it is amazing to see how far we have come. From the days of being thrown over 20cm crosses, to the days of jumping 1,20m bareback with my arms out to the sides, knowing that my horse would never do anything to hurt me, and trusting her completely with my life. To this day, Polo remains a 1-person horse. I've lost track of how many times people have suggested that I sell her, give her away or bury her 6 feet under the ground... But I wouldn't part with that horse for anything. She is a reflection of my soul. She is my sibling, my best friend, my loyal pet and my trusted partner.

Polo cantering in water:
The bottom line is that a horse doesn't have to be perfect to be perfect for YOU. Sometimes in life we find love in the most unlikely places. We suddenly find our reason for living, in the one place we never thought to look, and only then do we realise that what we've spent a lifetime looking for has been with us all along.
Perfection has its flaws - The story of Polo
Perfection has its flaws - The story of Polo
Perfection has its flaws - The story of Polo
Perfection has its flaws - The story of Polo
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