Carlos Delgado, Santa María Polo Club’s horse vet from Uruguay, spoke to POLO+10 about the medical care of horses, the weather conditions at Sotogrande and the special needs of polo horses.

POLO+10: How did you manage to start working at the Santa María Polo Club?
Carlos Delgado: I started working in Santa María before it became Santa María Polo Club actually; I was here when it was established. I am from Uruguay and I came here when polo started in 1987, a couple of months ago (laughs).

POLO+10: How did you get in contact with the owners of the club?
Delgado: I was fully dedicated to polo while I was in Valderrama (the stables were there). Then the club expanded and the El Río, El Puente del Hierro and Ayala’s stables were built and there was a lot of work to be done in order to transform the land into authorized equestrian centers. So I was in charge of all the horses at the club, as well as the associated clubs.

POLO+10: How is a working day for you during the high season?
Delgado: Polo is probably the most extreme sport for the horses, since it requires a great physical effort from them and it is always played to the limit. It is all about avoiding any kind of accidents on the field. Polo players from other countries bring their own people and vets when there is a tournament. Our work occurs on the polo pitch as well as in the stables. My main task is to inform the vets of all the polo teams about these matters on behalf of Santa María Polo Club.

POLO+10: How do you control the use of steroids, antibiotics, etc. on the horses?
Delgado: A horse under medical treatment should rest as much as the vet considers appropriate. We have radiology and sonogram equipment in order to prevent any problem that the horses might have – for example, due to the use of random analgesics without a good diagnosis. If any horse has a severe problem, we don’t allow it to play under any circumstances.

POLO+10: So you act as a mediator between the teams’ horses and the club, controlling all the medical problems that the horses might have. Is that right?
Delgado: Exactly. During the high season we have very good polo players here, and they bring really good horses with them, but there may be times when a horse is not prepared for playing polo, and it is my job to talk to the players and patrons about it.

POLO+10: Would you say that Santa María Polo Club puts more importance than other clubs regarding the horses’ medical cares?
Delgado: Absolutely. We have a lot of support to do so and we try to improve every day in order to face all the new problems that might come in the future. We all need to understand that horses have a limit and that the parameters used to evaluate the horses and the players are completely different. We have to raise awareness about that.

POLO+10: What is your opinion about horse cloning from a medical point of view?
Delgado: Cloning and embryo transfer are more frequently used these days; it means that if you have an excellent horse, you undoubtedly want to breed from it. The problem is that this causes a big kinship between the animals and this weakens their immune system, so that they are more prone to suffer from an illness. When two animals from different backgrounds are crossed, their genetic code is always improved. Cloning and embryo transfer also brings a problem in terms of commercializing with the horses, and this is very negative. I think traditional breeding is better and that these artificial measures must be controlled.

POLO+10: Do the horses require different care regarding the change of weather conditions here?
Delgado: It is during the summer when we have to take care of the horses that play in high competition levels, because they lose a lot of components when they sweat during the matches. The horses that play polo lose a lot of potassium, magnesium, calcium and their strength is lowered. If we don’t analyze the horse’s blood and replenish these components, the horse will have severe health problems, especially when the parasites get into the blood. This also happens when horses are taken to more tropical environments where there is warm weather and humidity; in these contexts the problems with parasites are increased.

POLO+10: How many horses are here during the low season?
Delgado: In low season there are not many horses here, approximately 300. Some of them belong to patrons from different countries who leave their horses here until the high season.

POLO+10: What is the best season to play in Sotogrande taking into account the conditions of the horses and of the players?
Delgado: The best seasons to play for a horse are spring and summer, although here in Sotogrande, the weather conditions are very good all year round, which makes the conditions perfect even in the summer. Ideally, polo should be played all year round, but in most places this is not possible, Sotogrande luckily has that possibility.