THE owners of Val de Vie polo estate have vehemently denied any ill treatment of their horses, following queries raised by the National Council of the SPCA about polo last week.
Says Martin Venter, MD of Val de Vie: “We have twenty valuable thoroughbred polo horses on site, and can accommodate as many as 65 in our stables for big matches.
“They get the best treatment according to the international Hurlingham specifications. There is no way we can be accused of cutting costs as far as the animals are concerned.
“We play about three polo matches a week and the horses are never exhausted or ill-treated.
“What the SPCA’s equine inspector Mike Allen alleges, is totally untrue.
“No horse plays for hours on end - a chukka is about seven minutes long, and a single horse does not play successive chukkas - they get rested in between.
“We usually play early in the day or late in the afternoon to ensure that animals do not get heat exhaustion. When it is rainy, we cancel games to ensure the horses are not injured while playing.
“It is true that there is no shade in the pony line, where the horses are tied up between chukkas - this is standard practice world-wide, and no hotter than the paddocks where they graze by day.
“During games they are regularly watered after they have been cooled down by the grooms. We have about one groom to five horses who look after their every need.
“Our stables are impeccable and we even have a bio-fly project which serves as insect repellent to decrease flies in the stable.
“The polo ponies in our stables are exercised on a daily basis by the grooms. A number of residents also stable their own horses here for riding on the estate.
“Once a month during the summer months we play tournaments, when a number of additional horses are brought to Val de Vie by horse box.
“We have a veterinarian on call who can be at the field within 15 minutes. He also regularly checks the horses for injuries.
“Our most recent tournament between South Africa, Zimbabwe, Britain, Pakistan and the Netherlands was attended by the tournament director of the SA Polo Association, who had no problem with the way the horses were treated.
“Val die Vie is the biggest polo club in the Western Cape and one of the biggest in the country - our reputation has been needlessly tarnished by this unwarranted attack by the SPCA head office,” says Venter.
Veterinarian Deon van Tonder of Wellington Animal Hospital says that the horses at Val de Vie are in peak condition and get top notch treatment.
“They consult me regularly and I attend all the big tournaments. When I cannot attend a match I am on call and can be there within 15 minutes.”