Polo’s first ponies Other States

Manipur gets back on the horse

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As a measure of conservation of Manipur pony, one of India’s five indigenous horse breeds, the State hosts an international polo tournament.

Sagol Kangjei, from which the modern game of polo originated, rides on the back of an indigenous breed of horse. The Manipuri pony is now a threatened breed, its numbers slowly decreasing. Rapid urbanisation has left the animal with no grazing ground. Even Waithou in Imphal has lost a once flourishing grazing field.

Considered descendants of the Asian wild horse, Manipuri ponies have been recognised as one of the five indigenous horse breeds of India; the others being Marwari, Kathiawari, Zanskari and Spiti. Smaller than the other breeds, the Manipuri pony is well known for its stamina, speed and ability to survive harsh weather.

These horses once enjoyed special status in Manipuri society, and were used only for sport and rituals. As a conservation measure, the State government now hosts an international polo tournament where all teams have to ride the Manipur pony. A pony sanctuary is also being set up at Heingang to preserve the breed.

(Images and text by Ritu Raj Konwar)

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