I have been playing polo for three years in the summer months in Australia and have played on a range of ponies, mainly provided by the local polo school. I own a 9 year old mare that is compact, fast, straight and pretty good to deal with but pulls a bit too much and is difficult to check once she hits top gear (this could easily be my horsemanship rather than the horse ;) I'd be really interested in any experiences moving from low to high grade ponies and the difference it has made to your game. I currently play -1 (and rising soon I hope!), i hit the ball pretty well with a full range but expend (by my reckoning) too much time and energy on the field handling the horse rather than being fully focused on the gameplay.
First I just want to say "Well done on this GREAT website!", it's taking off on it's own.
I want to comment on your 9 yr old mare. You say that she's "pretty good to deal with, but pulls a bit too much, and is difficult to check in top gear". Then you add about your horsemanship. Since I'm not there to see myself, I'm going to try to narrow it down for you. I specialize in this field with both rider and horse.
- What bridle does your mare play in, and does she use draw reins or straight reins?
- Has your mare had her teeth floated yearly by a good vet?
- Is there any lameness issues, sore back, tendons, daily bute?
- What is your playing field like, and do you have cocks on the hind shoes?
- Your feeding program, and daily exercise as well.
These are the most common questions but have the backbone to a happy pony. Most riders in early stages of polo seem to direct there horse's problems on themselves if they are not sure, when it could be the smallest change on the pony part.
My husband and I breed and train polo ponies on our farm in Argentina, and also fix and resell other's ponies. We are a member of the AACCP, and are trying to produce a great breed of polo bloodlines...
Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your kind words about the site... I have found this opportunity to start this community to be quite unexpected and entirely addictive!
To answer your questions:
1) I have been experimenting with both straight & draw reigns. She is much easier to check with the draws but tends to be unsettled. She enjoys the straight reigns but fails to check at speed.
2) I keep her in livery with the polo school and they take care of all health matters. I am not sure if hewr teeth have been floated in the last 12 months but will find out
3) No lameness to speak of although she does have some condition coming out of winter that has not come off yet as I have been getting over a minor back injury and have not been able to play her as much as I usually would
4) Not sure about the cocks. Will look into this too.
5) She is kept in work by a 4 goaler and his grooms but as I said she is still carrying a little weight. Feeding is handled by these guys. Will get details and get back to you.
Great to see you are available for this type of advice. I will get back to you on the other points.
- Her teeth are floated once a year
- No lameness - she has been fine to date. My livery doesn't use daily bute for any horse on anything other than a short term basis, it messes up their liver. If they're sore, they're out of work/attended by vet until sound again
- No cocks on the hind shoes are used when she plays
- She has 45 mins - 1 hr exercise on per day and she gets one hard feed a day, no hay required at this time because feed in the paddocks is so good
Thanks for getting back on this....hopefully I can help in some way or try to narrow it down.
- Teeth are a big part in polo ponies and I sometimes touch them up every 6 months if they have edges. Most people feed grain in a bucket hung in the stall for the horses and use hay feeders or hay nets, when it really is changing the way the horse should be grinding their food...which leads up to a change in their mouth.
What bit are you using, Fixed gag, loose ring, pelham, with a port, broken? Also what noseband, flat or braided.
- Bute should never be used more than needed, not only it is bad for the liver but it will dull a horse's mouth. Not a lot of people know this.
- Cocks, My green horses have to earn there hind shoes, I know it sounds mean but sometimes a new pony to the game can turn or stop hard on bad ground and hurt themselves on cocks worse than slidding. Added angel used only when played can change the way a horse goes and if it hurts them they will more likely not stop and turn when asked. In high goal polo here we put "resting cocks" , (just smaller) when the ponies are stabled and worked so the change is little from when they play, it's more work but better results in the end.
How is the ground where your at now?
- Exercise, from coming in from turnout most horses will pick up their bellys easy depending on how long they have been turned out. And some ponies will take a bit more time to get fit and play well.
Does your mare live in a box durning the day and out at night, and how many hours is she out on grass?
In response to your further questions i am using the following:
- polo gag bit
- flat noseband
- no calks on the hindshoes (I assume you mean calks?)
- Ground is firm, particularly as it dries after after very hot days
- She lives in the paddock most days and nights so she is out on grass at least half the time
This is what I have in mind, I could be WAY off, but it's worth a try...
- Gag bit, depending on the size of the ring (diameter) makes the bit more or less severe. Bigger ring (less severe). Smaller ring (more severe). The gag can come fixed or loose ring, the loose ring is lighter in the mouth than the fixed. Also the mouthpiece can be determined on the severity from, rubber, fat mouth, barry, twist, and twisted barry. All this can make a big difference on just a gag bit.
Some horse just aren't gag horses, and it never hurts to try a pelham.
There are many pelhams from broken, fat mouth, mullen (stright), port. I try to leave out the coscojero (Argentine), that in the wrong hands can do more damage than good. The shanks on the pelham play a big apart, longer shank doesn't mean more, if it isn't equal to the part that attaches to the leather (headstall). The curb chain is everything if not used correctly, it should be loose enough but not too loose. The best way to check from the ground, pull back with both reins evenly, and slowly. See how your horse responds, there has to be angle, that it's not pulling on the bars of the mouth and has proper contact on the curb. I've found on many horses that I get to re-train they just don't want a gag and perfer a pelham.
Also, what most people don't do, check the palate in the horse's mouth. When you put your finger in, is the palate low or high? This has a lot to do with the bit too. It's like buying shoes, you might need for yourself a wider width shoe than others. Horses with a low palate are more sensitive to harsh bits, and broken mouth pieces.
Of course there are a lot of those "trick bits" , and I don't like them. I think it's seeing how you horse responds to different bits. I'm not saying try a different bit everyday, that will only make the horse more confused. Sometimes more is less, and less is more.
I don't know your horse and I'm only guessing that she might not be happy with what's in her mouth.
It might be like those bad fitting shoes...
I too am a new player, only 1 1/2 years. There is a huge difference between school horses, and a good polo pony that will fit you as a beginning player. I have been riding all my life, and consider myself a very good rider, so I started out in polo with horses that are too good for me, in the way that they are high goal horses, and aren't much help when I am trying to learn the game, and hit the ball, I will hopefully be able to play them much better in 08.
I found a great horse in Argentina last month, she gets to the US this month. The reason I am shipping a horse home, is because she is perfect for me as a beginner, and will be great as I get better, but most important, she is going to help me learn, because she is not so high powered. I would look for horses that you feel confident on, that rate well (easily slows down, with out you having to only pay attension to the horse), that turn easily, so you don't plow into anyone, that stops well, basically a horse you can trust, so you can learn the game.
I don't know about you, but those darn sour school horses make me sore! I am playing on them now here at home, because my girls are still in pasture. I would also play a horse a few times before I buy it, make sure it fits you, I would also stick and ball it, and take it on the track, you want to know what the horse is like all the way around.
Best to you on your new horse adventure!
I want to thank you for starting this great site! I am looking forward to all of the future information I will gain from it. And hopefully all the wonderful friends I will make internationally!
I reckon it has a lot to do with how much you work with the horse, and who does it. I have a nice 13 year old, handled perfectly, turns on a dime, and has only a small trait of turning too quick once I do a offside backhand, she recognises my moves, and too quick at times. Haven't been over the top yet, I recognise it coming. Another mare I have is 4 years, and used to vear away from the ball. I figured that the previous owner must have given her a mighty whack with the mallet, so now I lock her with some balls in her stall, so she gets used to them. I find consistent work with the hands is necessary, and saddle work to pull up. Also correct bit helps, the older mare is soft in the mouth so she has a rubber and very soft bit, just doesn't need more. The other is a bitch, so I have to be focused, but she is coming along well. Do you have a good coach. If you get time have some lessons as other people spot your problems, and it is usually the riders problem, a good rider will get the best out of his horse. Believe me, I am like you, -1, 55 years old, playing 3 years only so I have to be cunning as well, otherwise I am in agony for a week, and I can't find any women who sympathise that well with me playing polo...... sorry Jen....
Best Regards, Richard Pocock
Ok so here's the rub... It was some time ago when I posted this message and I have since discovered that my mare had a bone chip in her knee that has since been removed. She is in work now and should be back online in 6 weeks. It will be interesting to see how she goes now... I'll let you guys know.
I read in Playmaker Polo by Dawny: Firstly, "play outside your horse" ,
Hugh, I have very similar polo experience, in terms of years and ability, and commented only yesterday " Funny, but I always score more goals in the chukkas when I play, what a high goaler would consider my, "worst" (slowest but very handy and steady) pony. I am able to play her completely "outside".
Look forward to playing with you and other PCW members on December 5th, right before the Palermo Finals, here in Buenos Aires.