These days, when he’s not grazing in one of the pastures at Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program’s (NVTRP) 17-acre farm, Chukker can be found helping his riders find their balance and gain confidence as one of the program’s newest therapy horses. 2016 marked a new beginning for the 20-year-old chestnut Appendix and a new career.
Born in Argentina, Chukker was brought to the United States to train as a polo pony. His owner, Laura Thurston, purchased the gelding in Pinehurst, NC when she decided to get back into the sport of polo.
“I wanted to make sure I found a horse that was 100% trained and knew polo better than me. (At only 3 years old), I thought he was going to be green,” Thurston said.
Much to her surprise, Chukker, formerly named Miejo, turned out to be the perfect mount.
“He knew how to play polo. I didn’t need to coach him. If I asked, he would just do it,” she said.
When Thurston moved to Northern Virginia in 2008, they competed at VIPolo in Upperville and Chetwood Park in The Plains, the site of NVTRP’s Ride to Thrive Polo Classic. The two would go on to play polo for many years together until his retirement in 2014.
“(Chukker) was always willing to please. He was very athletic but has the biggest heart and is very protective of his rider; always in tune with what is going on with his rider,” Thurston said.
Chukker continues to exhibit these same qualities at his new home as a NVTRP therapy horse, making him a favorite of riders, volunteers and staff alike.
NVTRP provides equine-assisted activities and therapy for children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military service personnel, and their families.
For more information on NVTRP’s Ride to Thrive Polo Classic, please visit www.nvtrp.org/polo.
You can adopt Chukker or one of the many other NVTRP therapy horses. More information can be found at www.nvtrp.org.