14 horses die at Florida polo club; U.S. Open match canceled
In front of a stunned, hushed crowd at International Polo Club Palm Beach Sunday in Wellington, Fla., veterinarians tried feverishly to save expensive polo ponies from death before the featured game of the U.S. Open polo tournament.
Fourteen horses, worth as much as $1 million on the Venezuelan-based Lechuza Caracas team died before their scheduled game against Black Watch.
Two other horses are being treated at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Another horse is being treated at the Lechuza complex close to the stadium.
When the horses started getting sick and collapsing about 45 minutes before game time, stadium officials announced that the polo match was canceled and an exhibition game would be played instead.
Early reports had four horses dying in the horse trailer used to transport the horses to the polo game. Another four died upon arriving at the stadium
According to several sources, the horses had a reaction to a steroid derivative that may have been tainted with a cleaning solution. The shots apparently were administered by an Argentine vet, not licensed in the United States
Witnesses said that it seemed every vet in Wellington rushed to the grounds trying to save the other ailing polo ponies, who were breathing heavy and had trouble standing on the grassy field. When the horses started collapsing, veterinarians ran cold water on their chiseled, well-bred bodies as they attempted to revive them. Fans that shoot a fine water mist were also used to get the horses' body temperatures down.
The U.S. Open is the oldest and most prestigious polo tournament in the United States. It also culminates the end of the high goal season at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Team padrons or player-sponsors are known to bring out their best and most expensive string of polo ponies, anywhere from six to eight ponies for each of the team's four players that could cost up to $1 million dollars.
A full-scale investigation by the U.S. Polo Association, the sport's governing body, is expected to get under way today.
Necropsies will be conducted by state veterinarian Dr. Mike Scott on every horse to determine the cause of death. The horses were transported to a state-run clinic in Kissimmee, Fla. Preliminary findings are expected late Monday night or Tuesday.