Ban on Polo Lifted as City Finds Horses in Fine Fettle

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Equestrian Center was given the go-ahead Friday to hold indoor polo matches, three days after the games were banned by the city Department of Animal Regulation pending an investigation into the deaths of two polo horses.

Animal regulation investigators and veterinarians who conducted an inspection Friday at the Griffith Park center said they lifted the ban because they are convinced that the center's polo horses have not been mistreated and are properly trained to play the rigorous sport.

Center officials said they will host a game tonight between the Los Angeles Stars and the Houston Longhorns.

Michael Burns, district supervisor for the department, said investigators found no evidence of abuse during the 90-minute inspection.

"According to our veterinarian's report, these horses are in good to excellent shape, especially considering the hard work they do," Burns said.

He said the department is continuing its investigation into the deaths of the two horses, which broke legs in the opening minutes of a match March 11.

"These horses are absolutely able to compete," said Dr. Betsy Connelly, a veterinarian who led the inspection of 27 polo horses Friday.

Burns said a permit to hold indoor polo matches was issued to the center Friday. The facility did not have such a permit to stage indoor polo matches previously, even though it had been holding them with the blessing of the city Recreation and Parks Department since 1983.

The games were ordered banned after the department received a complaint from John Alexander, a spectator at the March 11 match who said he had seen horses die at other matches as well. Other spectators said they had seen horses with open sores being ridden during games.

The professional polo games in the 3,500-seat Equidome bring in 8% to 10% of the revenue for the financially strapped Equestrian Center.

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