A strange little equine welfare story to report on this Friday. According to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry has been accused of animal cruelty for apparently causing a bloody puncture wound with his spur while riding his polo pony in a match yesterday. According to a witness at the match, the Prince continued to ride even while his pony bled from the very visible spur gouge. The royal camp disputes that claim, and a representative from the Hurlingham Polo Association asserted that the injury appeared to have been from an accidental hard knock or "nudge" instead of intentionally inflicted by the Prince while goading his horse forward. The Prince did seek immediate treatment for his horse's wound, and apparently it was not so deep as to prevent the pair from going back in to the match.
I am not entirely sure what to think of this. The Prince is obviously a capable rider, and has competed many, many times on the international polo scene. Is this simply an on-field accident, caused by his pony's bumping up against another horse while the Prince had his spur on?? Or is it the result of too much competitive spirit encouraging him to play his horse too hard in the match? The Prince is not by a long shot the only rider to be facing sanction this year due to an over aggressive use of some type of aid. On the other hand, polo has always, in my humble opinion, smacked of a macho "man vs. beast" sort of mentality. Of course I realize that most polo riders are skilled horse people who keep their horses well out of harm's way. But when the desire to win collides with the physical limitations of the animal used to get there, it seems there will always be riders who choose to be competitors first and horse people second.