A week ago Sunday spectators watched in disbelief as polo ponies began collapsing as they arrived at the Palm Beach Polo Club in Wellington to play in the US. Open Polo Championship. By Monday morning, 21 horses from the Venezuelan team of Lechuza Caracas were dead.

I live in Palm Beach County where this tragedy occurred. Investigations have been launched by the Florida Department of Agriculture, U.S. Polo Association and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Necropsies are being performed on the horses at the state Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab in Kissimmee and the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville. While the world waits for official results, we struggle to make sense of such an unbelievable happening.

The Argentine player Nacho Figueras discussed the close relationships between players and ponies and why the deaths hit the polo community so hard. “You can’t play polo if you don’t love the horses. Your relationship and bonding with the horse over the years is tremendously important. You are one with the horse. That is exactly how it feels. There is definitely an emotional tie.” Horses often play into their teens and sometimes into their 20s—giving many years for the incredible bond to strengthen.

I found the following poem by Chief Seattle in Carlson’s book, Parting Words, Parting Ways. To me, these thoughts sum up Figueras’ feelings about his polo ponies.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us.

The perfumed flowers are our sisters;

The deer, the horse, the great eagle,

These are our brothers.

All things are connected like the blood

which unites one’s family.

Bountiful Blessings!

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