Polo is a popular equestrian sport; matches comprise of 4-6 periods or chukkas. Players commonly change ponies between chukkas, but can also change ponies within a chukka, known as ‘half-chukkering’, anecdotally believed to ‘save’ the horse by preventing fatigue and facilitating recovery. The current study aimed to test this hypothesis and evaluate the impact of half versus full chukka playing strategies in low goal polo. Resting heart rates (HR) were established for 48 polo ponies competing in low goal tournaments. Riders selected their normal pony playing strategy, either full (n=32) or half (n=15) chukkas. HRs were recorded at the end of play and during recovery; for the full chukka and second half chukka period at 2, 4, 6, 10 and 20 min, or until ponies returned to play after the first half chukka (≥6 min). To enable comparison of recovery from exercise, HR data recorded during recovery was also expressed as a percentage of maximal HR for individual ponies. ANOVA analyses investigated differences during recovery between ponies playing full chukkas and the second half chukka period, and within the two half chukkas played. At the end of play, full-chukka horses' HR were lower than their 2nd half chukka counterparts, 95±13.1 bpm compared to 103±7.7 bpm, but this was not significant (P≯0.05). Significant differences in HR did occur throughout the subsequent recovery period: at 2 min (P<0.003) and between 4-20 min (P<0.0001), with full-chukka ponies recovering faster. No differences occurred during recovery (P≯0.05) between the two half chukka periods although mean HR differed at the end of play (1st: 100±7.7 bpm; 2nd: 103±7.8 bpm). Playing strategies influence ponies' cardiovascular recovery; full chukka ponies recover more quickly than those playing in consecutive half chukkas. Therefore, implementing a full chukka playing strategy is advocated to optimise pony welfare and performance in low goal polo.
Williams, J., & Fiander, A. (2014). The impact of full vs. half chukka playing strategies on recovery in low goal polo ponies. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 10(2), 139-145. https://doi.org/10.3920/CEP140004