Origin: Assam – Manipur.
Physique: Sturdy, sure-footed pony, thought from its appearance to have both Asiatic Wild Horse and Arab ancestors. Alert head gaily carried; deep chest and well-sprung ribs; clean, hard legs; high-set tail.
Polo is a game that has been popular in Asia for almost 2,000 years, though with the decline of the Moghul empire, it lost its vogue in India and would have died out had it not been for continued enthusiasm in the hill states of the Himalayas and Assam.
The Western fondness for the game came about through its discovery by English planters who worked in Assam in the 1850s and who took to the local game with relish. The ponies they rode were Manipuris; and thus Manipur ponies, in Western eyes, are the original polo ponies. They are still used for the game in their homeland, though in Europe and America, they have been succeeded by much bigger, faster animals.
Ponies have been bred in Manipur since time out of mind, though the breed must have undergone the gradual changes and refinements (or degeneracies) common to native breeds all over the world. There are records of polo having been locally introduced by the King of Manipur in the 7th century when the game was played on ponies bred in his state.
Manipur ponies are claimed as the mounts of the all-conquering state cavalry which once terrorized northern Burma, though it is open to doubt whether these ponies were Manipuris or were simply ponies that came from Manipur. Writing in 1896 about the successes of the Manipuricavalry, Major-General Sir James Johnstone says, “Manipur in olden days possessed a famous breed of ponies, larger and better bred than the so-called Burmese ponies that came from the Shan States.
On these ponies were mounted the formidable cavalry that in the last century made Manipurfeared throughout Upper Burma ” which places a big question mark above the historical identities of both these breeds, since today’s Manipuriis smaller than the modern Burma pony.
See more: Kladruby Horse