Winning with Horses

How One of the Best Polo Players of All Time and a Sport Horse Veterinarian Balance Human Goals with Equine Needs

Shelley Onderdonk, DVM & Adam Snow



A compelling look at a lifetime of success competing with horses, and what it takes to make sure it is the horse that always wins.

Is it possible to be simultaneously passionate about winning in an equestrian sport and about the welfare of horses?

Professional polo player Adam Snow and sport horse veterinarian Shelley Onderdonk answer this undeniably twenty-first-century question with a resounding, “Yes!” They have spent a lifetime together, nurturing Adam's astounding career at the top of his sport (he is the last American polo player to achieve the perfect 10-goal handicap) with the artful, conscientious care and training of the equine partners he needed to be the best. And Shelley's twenty-five years as an equine veterinarian have been spent helping sport horses compete at the highest levels in other disciplines, as well—including reining, racing, eventing, show jumping, and dressage—while always prioritizing long-term health and well-being.

In these pages, Adam and Shelley share the keys to their success…and the struggles and celebrations that taught them along the way. Through the lens of their disparate and yet synchronous experiences in the intense realm of world-class equestrian sport, they explore topics of concern and those worthy of consideration, including the:

  • Role of natural training methods and horse-human communication
  • Cultivation of a competitive training mindset
  • Responsibility of a veterinary team member: goals of prevention and realities of diagnosis
  • Options offered by therapeutic alternatives
  • Best steps when preparing human and horse for competition
  • Hard questions to ask when maintaining an equine athlete
  • Pieces that make up the performance puzzle: conditioning, farriery, tack, and travel
  • Reality of retirement and when it is the right thing to do, for horse and human

Smart, engaging, and honest, this book is the answer to the online debates and the boardroom arguments. With intelligence and experience, the authors provide the much-needed antidote to the dark side of horse sports. “Our story is an explicit acknowledgement that doing good for the horse is good for results in the competitive arena,” they write. “Our task is to explain our method, and yours is to prove that it can be replicated.”

Additional Information

Author: Shelley Onderdonk, DVM & Adam Snow

Format: Flapped paperback

Page Count: 248

Illustrations: 76 color photos

ISBN: 9781646011728

By Shelley Onderdonk, DVM & Adam Snow

Shelley Onderdonk, DVM was born and raised in San Mateo, California. She is a graduate of Yale (BA ,89) and University of Georgia (DVM ,97), and has continued her medical education through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and The Chi Institute. Shelley's integrative veterinary practice, active since 1998, incorporates the best of Western medicine, acupuncture, manual therapy, equine sport science, and rehabilitation for the benefit of her patients. She is an avid environmentalist, rider, writer, and yogini.

Adam Snow played polo professionally for 34 years, achieving the highest rating of 10 goals in 2003. Career highlights include winning two US Open titles, competing in the Argentine Open in 1998 and 2004, winning many Best Playing Pony prizes for his horses, and twice being named Player of the Year. He was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 2014. Retired from tournament polo, he now gives back to the sport via coaching, mentoring, writing, as well as announcing polo games for television. Adam grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and received a BA from Yale, where he also played ice hockey and lacrosse.

Shelley and Adam met in college and were married in 1989. They have made Aiken, South Carolina, their home base ever since they first bought 24 acres of farmland there in 1992. They are devoted parents to three sons and partners in making their New Haven Farm an idyll for animals and humans alike. Winning with Horses is their second co-authored book; the first, Polo Life: Horses, Sport, 10 & Zen, was published in 2016.

Catskill Horse Says:

“The book is at times reflective and is always brimming with focus and enthusiasm .”

Polo Magazine Says:

“Taking good care of your horses not only benefits you competitively but also as a human being.”