Polo Players Edition

NOV 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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14 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N horse is bouncing all over the place, it is wasting energy. If the horse can stand qui- etly, it relaxes. A horse that is burnt out, frustrated or not understanding what you are asking, is different than a horse that is being asked the right way, but just doesn't want to do it. That type of horse may need to be asked in a different way. Know your horse's lim- its so you can determine how much pres- sure to put on it. Some horses may never be comfortable playing polo no matter how hard you try. In these cases it is best to find the horse a new job. Sometimes you can even ruin a horse that is doing everything right. The horse may do things so well, you move them along too fast and all of a sudden, they are burnt out or broken down because they have done too much, too soon. And a horse that can spin around on a dime, stop and roll back is making movements that can take a toll on its body if it is doing it repeatedly, so be mindful not to overdo it. Off-season: A lot of people don't like to turn horses out for an extended period of time because they think the horses will deteri- orate. Instead they will turn them out for no longer than two weeks and always keep them a little fit. Older horses especially benefit from staying somewhat fit rather than being turned out for extended peri- ods and letting them lose all their muscle. Older horses that may have a little arthri- tis often benefit from staying somewhat fit all the time but spending more time outside rather than in a stall so they can keep walking around. This helps prevent legs from stocking up and getting stiff and sore. I always think why not get my young [horses] up and get some of those that aren't going well and use the time away from polo to work on them. I will some- times even take my main horses and go play green horse polo on them because it is just slow, boring polo. There is no pres- sure so you don't have to go out there stop, turn and get to every ball. I will go out and cruise around and if the horse is ready, I may pick a spot on the field and say, OK, we are going to shut down at this spot. We are not passing that line. We are going to shut down, roll back to the right and fire out of here. Then you can let them relax a bit. It is all about showing the horse that this is what I am going to ask of you. I want you to be able to do it, and stay relaxed, calm, supple and smooth. Then I'll go back to cruising for a while and can ask again in a little bit. The idea is to work the horse when there is no pressure. That way when you move the horse into more competitive polo and ask it to make the same moves, the horse will think it is a breeze because it has done it all before. If the horse is doing what you ask well, increase the speed. Get them up to three- quarter speed doing the same exercises. You don't want to move the horse into competitive polo, and all you've ever done with it was cruise around in circles playing keep away. [With the young horses] its OK if they don't do it all correct right now. Hopefully you are building on something so when the tournament comes around, they've improved from the previous season and are making better, softer moves on the field. Pre-season It is very important to prep the horses properly because what you don't want to have happen is you are getting ready those first couple of practices … you go out there and you steal their confidence. You might get after them and could possibly mess them up or hurt their confidence for the entire season. You always want to keep them soft, supple and having confidence in the movements that you are asking and what they are doing. When I say soft and supple, I don't want my horses to make hard moves or hit the ground hard. I work on where they are placing their feet and their movements. If the horse is constantly hitting the ground hard, like from slide stopping, pivoting and turning or just being tense, over time that is a lot of wear and tear on it so the horse won't last as long. During season Once the season starts, I don't do too much because my horses play two or three times a week. Here in Texas, my horses go outside in a big pasture so I usually ride them single. It could be as little as a five- minute ride. I lope them around both ways, and if they are leaving and stopping soft, putting their feet in the right spots, that's good and I'm on to the next horse. You don't want to overdo it with an old- er horse but at the same time, these older horses are often your more reliable horses that you tend to ask more of in a game. I want them to be fit and ready so I usually work them the same as a younger horse. If the horse isn't playing well, I may take the horse out of my main string and put it in my practice string. The horse will keep getting ridden single, getting worked but playing practices so there is less pres- sure on it. When it starts performing bet- ter and feeling better, then I can put it back in my playing string. When I get my horses ready for a game, I like to make sure they are sharp. I may let them stretch out a little bit, stop and turn left, then stop and turn right. If the horse does those things perfectly, then we are done and are ready to go. Don't keep schooling the horse because you don't want to mess up a good thing. Some horses that tend to be fresh or get a little broncy might benefit from five minutes of schooling before you head to a game. A horse that needs to wake up a lit- tle bit might benefit as well. All horses are different so find what works well for each of your horses. A lot of times less is more. I like to turn my horses out, let them roll around and adjust themselves, get dirty and just be horses. If you do the work in the off-sea- son, it will carry over once your season starts. A professional 4-goal player, Mason Wroe is a member of Team USPA. He has competed in all levels of polo up to 20-goals. He is currently based in Cat Spring, Texas. (continued from page 13)

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