La Grande Dame - Pretty Society
It's not often you have a world class polo professional asking to buy up your pony. However, that's what happened to us. The pony was Pretty Society and this is her story, her tribute.
We had just come back from a holiday in New Zealand, where we'd been, as always, impressed with the polo and especially the NZTB ponies, their speed, stamina and strength. Buying up race horses from the track and retraining for polo was something we'd done a lot of in our Nigerian days. However, it had proved difficult in Germany. We lacked contacts, facilities and an experienced older pony to show the way. We had reverted to picking up Argentine ponies already in Germany and bringing them on. We should have foreseen that our sons would take up the game and streak past us in ability. They were both naturals and were awarded best up-and-coming players by the @dpv_polo, the German Polo Association.We needed more ponies, more speed, more class. We decided to check out the race track again. This time we were lucky. A sleek, dark bay mare, four years old was for sale. She'd been placed a few times but the owner felt she wouldn't do better then this. We loved her look - elegant, great conformation and an intelligent eye. My husband put a saddle on her and rode her a little in the riding school. The owner asked if we could tell from this bit of riding if she'd be good for polo. No, not really, but we liked her enough to give it a try. We took her home with us.
Pretty Society had been bred in Isarland, a breeding operation in Bavaria. The sire was Law Society, well known for being "difficult ". Getting her home, we realised Pretty Society had inherited his arrogance and was none too pleased to be stabled next to a couple of Argentine ponies. With a few well-aimed kicks she established "her" space and kept it all the time she was with us. She was always haughty, self-contained, not a cuddly pony at all. These, however, were the qualities that would stand her in good stead as a polo pony. Her attitude of being "a cut-above" meant her ride-offs were rock-solid. She wanted to be first to that little white ball, and knew exactly where it should be going - between those posts. However, that was all to come.
We let Pretty settle and get used to her new surroundings. She was out on big fields, always keeping her distance, finding the shadiest places to stand which she, of course, refused to share. Once she'd started to forget the race- track, my daughter and I began to put some rides on her, taking our time, introducing her to hill work, the surrounding forests, stepping over logs, sloshing through muddy puddles. It was then out to the practice field with circles , leg-changes, stops and turns. My husband's steady hand was needed for the next step, introducing her to the stick and ball. Our sons then got her into baby chukkers. It was a year before we put her into a tournament, but Pretty immediately took to the faster running game. She proved to have great stamina, a soft mouth and a big heart.
She was 11 and probably at her peak when we took her to Vienna, where our son was playing in the Austrian Open at Polo Club Schloss Erbreichdsorf. We had, by then, a string of thoroughbreds, but it was Pretty Society who would prove to be the star. The games were fast and aggressive, and Pretty didn't let us down, cutting a dash out on the field with her lightening pace and fierce determination. Saturday night was party night and I was sipping wine and chatting to Paul Pieres who'd come to the tournament to watch his son, Polito, play. Casually, Paul asked about the thoroughbred my son had played in the third chukker and he said he liked her. Would I be interested in selling? My immediate 'no' caused him to ask, "You don't sell your horses?", "Not THAT horse", I replied. "She's irreplaceable".
While proud to have been asked, Pretty Society stayed with us. She went on to further fame, helping to score the golden goal, putting Germany ahead of Italy at the European Polo Championships @aspernpolo. No one could catch her. She won Best Playing Pony at a number of tournaments and continued to play half chukkers up to her 20th year.
It was time for retirement and we found a quiet place for her with a young woman in our village. We could go past and see her contentedly grazing and keeping her usual distance from the other two horses. Occasionally I would see her being ridden out, prancing like a young horse and looking, as always, extremely pretty.
She passed away quietly on 10th January 2021. She's missed......and remembered.