Polo Players Edition

SEP 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

Issue link: https://polo.epubxp.com/i/1016123

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Page 29 of 67

28 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N they are having with their horse. Chaplin says when people think their horse has a bitting issue it is often a schooling issue. He says it is important to learn to ride well with strong legs and good balance so you are not hand dominant in everything you do. Then, you can move on to learning how each bit works before finding one suitable for your particular horse. "You can't look for a bit before that. If the horse doesn't know how to give to pressure, you can put the kitchen sink in its mouth. It is still going to fight you." There are many signs the bit you are using is not comfortable for the horse, including head shaking, getting the tongue over the bit, pointing its nose, not responding to the bit, leaping or running from it. For young horses in training, Chaplin likes to keep it simple. "My favorite mouthpiece is the Don McHardy because it is a ported [snaffle]. I try to take away as many things that will stand in my way as I possibly can and tongue pressure is one of them. I never use a gag on a young horse because all the pulley releases are all too slow so the horse doesn't get rewarded immediately for the give." He uses the same bit to start when he is working with a horse with a problem he is asked to sort out. "I love the McHardy with either a Dutch (three ring) or pelham cheek piece because they work to get the horse really rounded up," said Chaplin. "It has very light bar pressure and barely any tongue pressure until you pull on the rein. It's got a little ring that just touches the tongue and tucks the nose so you pick up the horse and it tucks back to you. "The ported mouthpiece takes away the tongue pressure and I put the rein on the snaffle ring and teach [the horse] to give to the light pressures of the direct rein first," he said. An important aspect of bits to understand is pressure, which can be on the tongue or on the bars of the jaw. Tongue pressure encourages the horse to drop its head while bar pressure encourages the horse to lift its head more. A simple snaffle creates a nutcracker action on the tongue creating more pressure on the bars. A Barry gag also puts more pressure on the bars. A pelham creates pressure on the tongue as well as some on the bars. There is also pressure on the poll (the top of head) as the bit rotates when the reins are pulled, and from the curb chain attached behind the horse's chin. "Then you start to look and say, what cheek piece am I using. If I am using tongue pressure to drop the head, it's pointless to put a rope gag in there that lifts it because its as if they are fighting each other," explains Chaplin. A Dutch (three-ring) gag would be better suited because it puts the pressure downward. "If the horse is going low, use a single break gag with a rope. That creates bar pressure so that would lift the horse's head. So, if you are using a rope gag with that, the two are working in tandem to pick up the head," he said. While pelham and gags are the most widely used bits in polo, there are so many variations of these bits that it can be confusing. Bomber Equestrian alone makes some 700,000 varieties. Pelhams can come with longer or short shanks (the piece between the end of the bit and the lowest ring), longer or shorter purchase (the piece between the end of the bit and where the cheek piece attaches), larger or smaller ports (the raised area of the bit) or no port at all and curb chains can be wide, smooth and flat or thinner with more links. The larger the shank, purchase or port, the more leverage you have and the harsher the bit. Larger curb chains are gentler than a thinner chain. A twisted chain is harsher than one that lies flat. Flat curb hooks, rather than rounded hooks, help keep the chain flat against the chin when you pull on the reins. The gag is basically a snaffle bit with leverage added by way of a rope through a large or small ring attached to each side of the bit, or three rings. In the former, if you remove the rein attached to the ring at the bottom of the rope, you remove the leverage and are basically back to a snaffle. Most polo gags you see have a ring with a rope through the center. The larger the ring, the more leverage you have. With the three ring, you attach the rein to one of the three rings. The lower the ring, the more leverage you have. Both pelham and gag bits are now available with things like spinners, rollers or plates of some kind in the middle. The length of the plate determines the amount of pressure on the bars—the longer the plate the less bar pressure. The more bar pressure, the higher the horse will lift its head. A bit with a spinner can help prevent the horse getting its tongue over the bit. Every horse is different so you have to be mindful of each horse. "You need to look at the horse's mouth. If it is a short mouth, don't use a curved bit because it will go back to the teeth. In a longer mouth, the teeth are set further back," Chaplin explained. "Some horses have rounded bars with the ridge on the inside, while others have narrow bars with the ridge on top, which is always a more sensitive mouth. Horses are not symmetrical so you might have a horse with a round bar on one side and a sharp one on the other so now the horse is carrying its head to one side to get the bit Gavin Chaplin has many years of experience training horses.

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