When a Range Rover Sport 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged accelerates at full throttle, its four tyres are feeding 375kW onto the road – or the off-road, as the case may be. A good polo pony has, by comparison and at the risk of stating the obvious, about one horsepower, which equates to three-quarters of a kW. They’re worlds apart.
Or are they? What they have in common is exceptional agility and manoeuvrability, an outstanding ability to put their power down on loose surfaces and maintain traction and grip in the most difficult conditions. They also do so with unmatched flair, grace, and style.
Given its head, the flagship Range Rover Sport will reach 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds, yet some say a polo pony is faster – at least in the initial phase of the pullaway, and a strong horse will gallop to its top speed of almost 50 km/h in the blink of an eye. The truth will be revealed at the Land Rover Africa Cup polo tournament which takes place at the Inanda Club, Sandton, from July 18 to 20 when the two go head to head in a rare, once-off, race…
In the case of the Range Rover Sport it has not only a set of massive 275/45 tyres on 21-inch rims to make the final connection to terra firma, but fully independent air suspension, designed to provide an exceptional balance between comfort and control irrespective of the state of the surface. Then it has Terrain Response, Land Rover’s award-winning vehicle dynamics interface, which allows the driver to fine-tune the suspension, engine and transmission settings for the prevailing conditions.
As well as its equine intuition and years of training, today’s polo pony harnesses a number of technology features – four, in fact. The modern horseshoe is a sophisticated piece of equipment and at a gallop the force exerted by a horse’s hoof is in the order of 1000 kilograms per square centimetre. All its energy is transferred through its horseshoes and in polo, where a 500 kilogram pony (excluding rider) must rapidly go from a gallop to a standstill or suddenly make a high-speed turn, grip and traction is critical. Modern horseshoes are a blend of rubber and metal (including specialised composites in both cases), with different ‘tread’ patterns, studs lengths, and reinforced areas for specific disciplines and surfaces.
In the same way that the tyres play a critical role in how a Range Rover Sport performs, so too does the footwear of a polo pony influence not only its dynamic behaviour but also its long-term health.
If you were a betting man – or woman – what kind of horsepower would you put your money on? Find out at Inanda next weekend…