Polo Players Edition

FEB 2019

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/1074504

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12 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N I N S T R U C T O R S F O R U M BY JULIO ARELLANO RIDE ON! H orses are as much as 80 percent of the game. Better riders get more from there horses so one of the greatest benefits of riding a lot is that you will get more out of each horse. A beginner rider may only get 50 percent out of their horses but as they learn to ride better, that amount will increase. The more you ride, the better bond you will form with your horses. The hors- es will get used to your signals instead of just knowing your groom's or trainer's signals. It is also good to ride your horses in a relaxed and less-stressed environment rather than only riding when you are at polo. It is beneficial for almost anyone to take riding lessons since there is always room for improvement. You can attend a polo clinic or take lessons from a polo pro or polo school or even from someone in another discipline, like a hunter, a jumper or a Western rider. The basics of riding are the same. You can use a lot of the tech- niques and bases of other riding disci- plines and adapt it to polo. Players who work an office job may not be able to ride that often, but the bottom line is ride as much as you can. Being a better rider will make you a better player. The most common mistake amateur players make is using the reins to hold on. They put a lot of pressure on the horse's mouth to stay balanced on top of the horse. That numbs the horse's mouth and throughout the chukker, it will become less and less responsive. Weaker riders also tend to bounce on the horse's back. The best way to correct both balancing yourself with the reins and bouncing on the horse's back is by getting a stronger seat and legs. Learn to hold on with the part of your leg right below your knee up to halfway through your thigh. The more you ride, the stronger your legs with get. When most people stand up to hit the ball or stop the horse, they just fall back on to the saddle. If you go to a nice restau- rant, you sit down very carefully. When you get home, you just flop on the bed. You don't want to do that multiple times in chukker. You are landing right on the horse's back. Eventually, the horse is going to get tired of it or will get a sore back. You don't want the horse to feel your weight. The faster you go, the farther for- ward you want to lean because when the horse slows down, gravity is going to bring you back. Think of it like giving some one a shoulder ride. If they lean forward, you are going to walk a little faster; if they lean back, you start walking backward. It is sim- ilar to you on the back of a horse. A strong leg will grip well and allow you to hold on, making the waist down almost motionless. You want to be weightless and not putting any pressure on the horse's mouth. With a strong leg, you can guide the horse, whether it is to move laterally, turn, go faster or even stop. When you want to slow the horse down, squeeze with your knees and lower thigh, lifting your buttocks off the saddle, and bringing your shoulders back. This will naturally bring the reins back a little bit but you won't have to yank on the mouth. It's about giving the proper signals so the horse thinks about it and reacts. When you work on that movement while riding, the horse will eventually learn those signals mean slow down. For turning, I listened to Tommy Way- man one time. He said, "The horse is more sensitive the closer up you go." So, the area on the neck closer to the ear is a lot more sensitive than by the shoulders. Put your hand forward, up the horse's neck, then ask it to turn. At the same time, push with the knee and heel of your outside leg, giving the horse all the signals that you want to turn. When you go out to practice riding, focus on just riding. Don't bring a phone with you. Not only can a ringing phone spook some horses but if you are talking on the phone, you are not paying attention to what is going on around you. You are better off riding for 10 minutes but staying focused and tuned in while you are doing it then riding for a 30 minutes, with most of it spent on the phone. Never get too relaxed on a horse, even at a walk. Choose a horse you are comfortable with and as you improve make it a person- al goal to learn to ride your most difficult horse, eventually making it feel like your nicest horse. Helmets are definitely very important, considering my last injury in July. I don't allow my kids or grooms to ever get on a horse without a helmet. Every time you get on a horse, wear a helmet as well as riding boots or paddock boots and chaps. Riding can be dangerous so take all the precau- tions. Prepare properly by stretching and warming up, especially if you are coming in from an office. Unless you are going for a trail ride, put the horse in its polo bridle and saddle. Check to be sure the bridle fits the horse correctly, the curb chain is set correctly and the mouth shutter and martingale aren't too tight or too loose. Be sure the saddle is tightened, but not overly tight. Some horses can be sensitive when the girth is tightened so always walk the horse at least a step or two after tightening the girth and before getting on. All that stuff could potentially be a reason for the horse not to react properly, so you want to get all Miles is the saddle will ultimately help improve your game

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