Prince Harry's Polo Pony Dies

Drizzle, a cherished polo pony belonging to the Royal Family of Wales, died during a polo match May 8 following a cardiac event, according to several sources.

The 10-year-old dark brown and white spotted mare "could not be saved," said a spokesperson for the Royal Family at the Clarence House in London. Prince Harry of Wales had been riding her for approximately three minutes when he sensed she was unwell and sought veterinary care. The horse then collapsed and died, the spokesperson said.

"She wasn't on the pitch long before (Harry) took her over to the side," said Roddy Wood, polo manager at Coworth Park in Ascot (Berkshire), where the charity match took place.

Veterinarians from Shotter and Byers Equine Veterinary Services, based in Surrey, examined the horse immediately. Sudden cardiac death was the diagnosis given at the scene by the veterinary team, Wood said. The attending veterinarians declined to comment.

"When a horse starts exercising, its heart rate can go from 25 beats per minute to over 200, with the heart pumping out five times as much blood," said Lesley Young, PhD, BVSc, DVA, DVC, DipECEIM, MRCVS, RCVS-recognized specialist in veterinary cardiology, based in Newmarket, England. Fast exercise also results in increased blood pressure and body temperature; at the same time, blood oxygen levels drop while lactic acid accumulates.

"This is a potentially bad environment for any heart, even a healthy one," said Young. "When circumstances conspire, a fatal heart rhythm problem or fatal hemorrhage can occasionally result."

Even so, this type of tragedy remains extremely rare, Young said. "But, unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, it is impossible to predict because most horses are perfectly healthy and normal in every respect before the event," she added.

Drizzle had previously served as polo mount for Prince William of Wales and Prince Charles of Wales, but Prince Harry most recently rode her in matches, the Royal Family spokesperson said.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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