Interview: Diana Beata Krüger
Since March 2013, the Argentine Mercedes Albisetti works as a veterinarian on the estate of Polo Escape and is in charge of all 75 horses living there (53 of them are polo ponies). POLO+10 has met the horse fan and talked to her about her work with the horses, the climatic conditions in Thailand and about her ambitions of becoming a polo player in the future.
POLO+10: Can you please tell us something about your background and your education?
Mercedes Albisetti: I was born in the North of Argentina. For my study of veterinary medicine I went to the University of Cordoba. After five years I graduated successfully and started my first job in an embryo centre in La Pampa. I worked there with polo horses. After this job I went to New Zealand for nine months. I worked there for a dairy farm, but they had horses as well. I decided to work only with horses, because this is my passion. Horses are around me since my childhood, I grew up with them and I always tried to find new challenges in different countries. So I went from New Zealand to Polo Escape. Now I am here since March 2013.
POLO+10: Where does your passion for horses come from?
Mercedes: My passion exists since my childhood, because my family has horses and we got the farm from my grandfather. My mother is a lawyer and my father is an agricultural engineer. So we don’t work with the horses, they are basically a hobby, like our German shepherds as well. Animals are always around us.
POLO+10: What are the daily challenges in your job?
Mercedes: In total we have 75 horses. 53 are polo horses from Polo Escape and twelve are from a Chinese patron. The other ones are young horses, less than four years old, or semi-retired from polo because of their age. The challenge is to oversee everything. I have to get up early at five in the morning. When the grooms have fed the horses in the morning we are checking the physical condition and the droppings of them. This is the first big thing of the day, to look what is going on. After the feeding we are ready for exercise. With the young ones I actually started the training. We have different training plans and programs. Some horses get a riding exercise, others just go outside. We have a plan for the whole week. This is our routine we have each day. And of course I have to check the horses that we have under treatment. Every morning we have new cases, maybe a cut or a horse is lame, and I am here for solving the problems.
POLO+10: Have you different issues with conditions due to weather when you compare New Zealand with Thailand?
Mercedes: The weather condition is a big factor, it’s a challenge all the time. The humidity is very high here, so the bacteria grow very fast. When you have wounds you have to work as fast as you can to prevent an infection. This is not only for me a difference, it also is for the horses. The most of them are from Argentina and we have a few from Australia as well. The seasons and the weather conditions are different in these countries. For the system of a horse it is completely different. There are seasons in Argentina und Australia where the horses have a few problems. In Thailand the horses have more stress. Because of the warm and moist weather throughout the whole year there are a lot of insects here. That is why you have to spend a lot of time in the stable. We need special equipment here in Thailand to treat the horses properly and to secure and ensure their well-being.
POLO+10: How long does a polo horse actually last, how long can you play polo games with it?
Mercedes: There are average and special horses. The average is four or five years on playing a high level. You start slowly with the gentle training when the horse is two years old. When the horse isn’t scared of nothing if you ride them, then you can start the polo school with them. On a high level the horses start playing tournaments with an average age of five years. But we also have horses here which are 16 years old. You can still ride polo with them on low goal tournaments. Basically we try to sell our older polo horses to a good home where they really take care of the horses. Or we sell them for all equestrian sport they can do, like show jumping or endurance riding.
POLO+10: Did you ever fell in love with a horse during your career? Do you have some favourites?
Mercedes: Yes, I have a couple here, I even talk to them. At Polo Escape, Cautivo and Delphina are very special for me. They are so kind and they allow you to treat them without any problems. While I am working with them I feel really safe.
POLO+10: Do you play polo?
Mercedes: No, I have never played polo although I worked with polo horses before I came to Polo Escape. But I will – this is my next challenge. I think I’m going to start when I’m going back to Argentina. For my future I always want to be close with animals and work with horses, so playing polo would be the next logical step.
Dear Mercedes, thank you very much for the conversation and good luck for the future.