It was with extreme disappointment, but not surprise, that I learned that there is a Gay Polo League operating in the United States and that the 6th Annual International Gay Polo Week will occur at the International Polo Club in Palm Beach in April.
Abused and murdered from dawn of recorded historyand, likely, eons before thatin cultures throughout the world, I would expect gay men and women to be more compassionate to animals abused and murdered for food and entertainment than the general population. Sadly, they're not, as evidenced by there being sufficient interest in polo not just to form a team but to warrant an international league.
The Gay Polo League's website, which I visited upon learning about the group, is nicely done. Attractive and easy to navigate, it features images of well groomed, smartly dressed people of different ages, sexes and ethnicities, all of whom are gay and have really good teeth, riding handsome, apparently happy horses in gorgeous settings. Copy includes "We're a community that shares a love for adventure, fun and the beautiful, challenging sport of polo," and "Polo is a sport rich with history, tradition, speed and skill. We encourage you to join us and experience it firsthand." It's all very lovely and Ralph Lauren, with no images or descriptions of the profound suffering horses endure in training, competition and, for those that aren't shot following an injury on the field, retirement.
I understand that in official rulebook of the United States Polo Association, horses are never referred to as horses, but "mounts," clearly to encourage a perception that these living, sensitive creatures have no more value than a dune buggy or Big Wheel. At 55 pages, only one-half of one addresses the safety of horses. Whips, spurs and riding crops are not prohibited, protection for horses' back legs is not required and a five-minute "time out" is available during which "visible blood" can be cleaned off a horse and a rider may change clothes. The mandate of the USPA insofar as horses are concerned is to "take positive action to protect players and the sport from the perception of animal abuse." Bless the Association's heart for not pretending to care about horses at all.
As with racing horses, carriage horses and those used for labor, polo horses are slaughtered when they're no longer useful. Others, like Prince Harry of England's "Drizzle," die of heart failure on the field. Most retired, sick or injured horses in the United States are sold at auctions and transported in long, harrowing rides to either Mexico or Canada, where they're killed for food consumed by other animals and, yes, humans. As tragic and disturbing as all animal slaughter is, there's something about frightened horses watching each other have their throats cut that is particularly devastating.
Please query the Internet for horse slaughter. Your search will list sites that aren't as pretty as The Gay Polo League's, the most galling part of which is this bit of whiny copy: "Our goal is to provide a safe place for active people to enjoy the excitement and competition and the camaraderie that comes with team sports, knowing that many of us didn't have as many opportunities to play a team sport growing up." Whatever. Whaa-whaa-whaa. The league is concerned only with the players and spectators and the sad childhoods I have no doubt most of them had. Nothing about the horses … I mean, "mounts." Please avoid the April event and discourage everyone you know from participating in this cruel, exploitive activity.
Christopher Murphya writer, paralegal and former Fabscout modellives in Orlando, Florida, with his nine special-needs dogs. See www.rp-author.com/murphy.
Photo by Miriam Lorenzi