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.

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POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N 29 to work on the side that isn't as sensitive. "If you look at the gap between the horse's [upper and lower jaw] it is about the thickness of a man's forefinger. If you use a bit that is thicker than that, you are creating jaw pressure. Some people think thick bits are softer. I find horses fight them because there is too much bit and they can't close their mouth all the way." People will then use a drop-nose band to help keep the mouth closed, but with a bit that is too thick, this just makes the horse more uncomfortable. Chaplin said that even with a drop-nose band, the horse should be able to open its mouth a little because when it is turning, its jaw slides slightly to one side. "If the nose band is too tight, you are working against yourself," he said. Chaplin said people also will use rubber bits thinking they are gentler, but they are often too thick and can dry out the mouth. Chaplin said sweet iron and blue bits encourage the horse to salivate and are warmer than stainless steel so the horse tends to accept them more happily. The type of reins you use can also make a difference. In polo, draw reins are used to collect the horse's stride when slowing or stopping. "When you look at a freeze frame from the side of a horse running, the front feet will land directly in a vertical line underneath its nose. As the horse runs faster, its stride gets longer so it sticks its nose out and that gives it the speed," explained Chaplin. "If you want to stop a horse, you collect it first. ... when you first take that pull on the reins, you are pulling the nose back so the horse shortens its stride as you are driving it slightly with your legs into the bit" Chaplin said if the horse is hollowing its back and going airborne, he would be looking for a medical problem. An ill-fitting saddle may be causing back pain, or pain in the neck or hocks may causing the horse to resist stopping on its hind end. Even sore feet may cause the horse to leap. So, before changing bits for a horse that is acting out, have the horse evaluated by your veterinarian for a medical issue. Chaplin said, more often that not, horses, like people, are either right-hand dominant or left-hand dominant so one side is usually muscled differently than the other. This adds saddle pressure on the spine on one side. If you've got a horse with a very sensitive mouth and too much bit, it often won't run because it is anticipating the stop and is afraid to go there. Too light of a bit on a horse that is less sensitive is often just as bad because when the horse doesn't respond, the rider will resort to yanking and pulling, bruising the mouth. Chaplin said there is a bit for every horse, it sometimes just takes some experimenting to find it. "The best horse I ever owned, Gabi, played in a Barry gag and she was magnificent in it. You put anything else in her mouth, she was horrible," Chaplin said. You need to experiment until you find what the horse is comfortable in. "Suddenly, you find that one thing and wham, you've got a different horse and that is so exciting." For questions about bitting, or an issue with your horse go to gavsays.com. It is important to ride well with strong legs and good balance so you are not hand dominant. Lia Salvo is playing this horse in a pelham with draw lines. Curb chains are found on a pelham bridle. Curb chains with smaller rings don't lie as smooth and flat as chains with larger rings (see below). Larger curb chains are more comfortable than smaller ones. When you pull on the reins, the curb chain puts pressure on the chin. SERGIO LLAMERA

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