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

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 67

POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N 13 that established first. If you aren't sure about tack fit, ask a knowl- edgable person to check the tack for you. Proper stirrup length is very important. It is like driving a car and the seat is too far back or too far forward. I use the finger test. Stand in the stirrups, and if the space between the saddle and your crotch is three fingers or less, your stirrups are too long; more than four fingers, stirrups are too short. Keep the balls of your feet on the stirrup bar for agility and mobility and for the best riding possible. Get your reins set in your hand, checking to be sure they lay flat against the horses neck without any twists in them. Be aware of your environment. If it is rainy or wet outside, it might be slip- pery so don't make fast turns or slide stops. It might be better to go out for a more relaxed ride on a track or in an arena than on a grass field. If bad weather is approaching, don't go far. Some horses are afraid of thunder and/or lightening. If dogs are running around put them away so they don't run around your horse or other- wise spook it. When developing your riding style, find a player who is similar to your height and weight and who you think rides well. Someone who is 5-feet tall is going to give completely different signals than some- body who is 6'4." Watch him ride and play and try to copy what he does. When I was younger, I had Memo [Gracida], Owen [Rinehart], Reggie [Lud- wig], they all helped me with my riding. Find either a trainer or pro to go out with you when you ride. It is safer to ride with someone else just in case you run into trouble. It is always good to have someone watching you. Nobody likes to be watched, and I'll be the first one to tell you that, but it is helpful. It is super important to have somebody to ride with and point things out. For example, you might think you are doing something right when in fact you may be giving the horse mixed signals. The other rider can say, you need to get better here or do this differently. Listen to what that rider tells you and let him know some of the things you'd like to improve on. If you don't have anyone that can ride with you, you can use a camera to film yourself so you or a knowledgable pro can review the footage and point out things to work on. Not every horse will be ridden the same. Some horses may be older and have been already doing this for many more years than you or they may have an old injury, so just go easy on those horses. You may have another that is more energetic and needs a little bit extra exercise. Start slow and warm the horse up. Spend time trotting. It helps build your leg strength and it is the one gate where the horse is using all its leg muscles. It is kind of like a jog, rather than a sprint. When you go to the gym and get on the treadmill, you are going to jog for a half an hour. You aren't going to do a couple of sprints and then you are done. While posting to the trot, think about not landing hard on the horse's back. It is like doing squats without weight—just going up and down and not landing on the saddle. Eventually move to a canter, and as you move faster, move your body weight for- ward in the saddle. Find the posi- tion where you are not sitting, you are in a hitting position. You want to be able to get in that stance in the saddle to hit. Practice at different speeds. You are going to need every speed when you play, so practice them all. Practice riding in circles and do roll backs against a fence or in an arena along the wall. When some- one backs the ball, you've got to get your horse around. Mimic those actions you use in a game. Change up the drills you do. Don't keep doing the same thing over and over or your horses are going to get sour. Work the horse for a few days then maybe take it for a trail ride one day. One of the benefits pros have is they usually started riding at an early age. And most people that play polo, played some other kind of sport when they were young, whether it was tennis or baseball so they know how to hit a ball. But being able to ride and hit a ball, that is a whole other thing. Get more comfortable riding so you don't actually have to think about it when you are playing and you can focus on just hitting the ball. Look at a golfer when he goes to tee off. He'll stand there for a minute, moving his legs, getting his balance and making sure he is just the right distance. We don't have that luxury. You never know where the ball is going to pop up, whether it is going to be on your left or your right, or how close it will be to your horse. You have to be able to move the horse and set yourself up quickly so everything is just right when you make contact with the ball. The only way to do that is by being comfortable enough of a rider. Riding isn't one of those things you can overdo. It's not like coffee where one cup is good but two cups isn't. The more you can ride the better. At 8-goals, Julio Arellano is one of the three high- est-rated American players. He has numerous wins to his name including the U.S. Open. Ride as much as you can. It will help you develop a strong leg, improving your balance, minimizing your weight in the saddle and decreasing the pressure on the horse's mouth. DAVID LOMINSKA/POLOGRAPHICS

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