A Devonshire couple have opened Britain’s first retirement home for polo ponies to care for them once their careers are over.

Jeanne Windle-Taylor from Lamerton, near Tavistock in Devon, came up with the idea after she was offered two soon-to-be retired polo ponies at the end of the season last year.

“After I agreed to take the two ponies, I began to wonder what happened to others once they could no longer play,” explains Jeanne. “After some research I discovered there was no organisation dedicated solely to helping retired polo ponies.”

Supported by her husband Paul, a hospital surgeon, Jeanne, a Dartmoor pony enthusiast, has been providing care for four retired polo ponies at the Polo Pony Sanctuary. “Although I enjoy watching polo, my previous equestrian background is breeding riding ponies and Dartmoors.

“After spending time caring for the polo ponies, I began to appreciate what charming, sensitive creatures they are. I can provide them with the TLC that grooms in big polo yards don’t always have the time to give.”

Jeanne and Paul are so dedicated in their quest to provide the perfect polo retirement home that they have sold their house and are in the process of buying a former stud farm, which Jeanne says “will provide the horses with much betteraccommodation”.

“My husband and I can look after around 12 horses at any one time, ” said Jeanne, “although I hope I never have to turn any away.”

Long-term plans for the sanctuary include a re-homing programme where horses that can still be ridden are loaned as hacks to suitable homes, as well as open days for visitors, fund-raising events and match sponsorship.

“The response to the sanctuary so far has been positive,” says Jeanne, who has applied for charity status for the sanctuary with polo clubs such as Cowdray and Beaufort agreeing to take money collection boxes.

“A number of high-goal players have already agreed to form a ‘sanctuary’ team and there is a parachute jump planned in May.”

For more information on The Polo Pony Sanctuary visit: www.thepoloponysanctuary.org or (tel: 01822 870 639).