Polo Players Edition

JUL 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/996749

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Page 13 of 67

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 TOM GOODSPEED SHIFT RIGHT ne of the most difficult tasks for a developing amateur is marking a more experienced player without being drawn into a foul. A common play situation resulting in a whistle is when a player comes in from the right (on the nearside) to defend a player carrying the ball on the offside. In this situation, the player with the ball is often on the left side of the field, advancing toward the goal she is attempting to score on. The opponent comes in from the right, hoping to either hook the player or ride her off, taking away her shot. The player with the ball will either try to get the defender to foul by coming across the line of the ball or drop in behind him while taking the ball to the right side of the field, now with the opponent on her nearside and the ball protected on her offside. A v o i d b e i n g d r a w n i n If you are the player coming from the right to try to hook or ride off an oppo- nent carrying the ball down field on the offside, be careful not to get drawn into a foul. As you move to the player, she may speed up or check (or both) to try to get you to commit to the ride off or a hook. Then, as you make your move, she can quickly check up, causing you to slide across the line in front of her. The umpire blows the whistle and the ball is advanced down field for the appropriate foul shot. It is helpful to keep an eye on your opponent's rein hand to see if she moves it forward to accelerate or pulls to check. Listen as well since an accelerating horse can easily be heard when you are in close proximity. Sometimes craftier players may even fabricate the play a bit. They try to make it look like you are over the line by angling their horses toward you and look for the foul when you actually may be on your own side. Even though I am aware that fabricating is real, more often than not, it is more of a riding error as players tend to cross the line of the ball when attempting to hook or make a play on the ball. Experienced umpires are taught to spot the line of the ball as well as the posi- tioning of the players when making the call. If they are spotting the ball, fabricat- ing is seen for what it is. More often than not, the problem is a combination of a lack of riding skill and anticipation. A very helpful drill is to practice reaching out for a hook off the nearside of your horse while you circle your horse to the right (away from the side you are leaning out on) at a gallop. This exercise is not as easy as it may sound. The difficulty of reaching to the left with your mallet while holding your horse right may be one of the most common rid- ing weaknesses. Many players lean in the direction they are reaching out to and often pull the reins in that direction too. Learn to counterbalance by holding the horse right while reaching left, using both the reins and lower leg to cue the horse right. You can even shift your hips away from the left side as you are leaning out. Being able to work a horse laterally is important so a couple of riding lessons might really help you improve. D e f e n d i n g w h e n b a l l i s b e h i n d y o u When you approach from the right to defend an opponent carrying the ball on her offside, you are on the side you want to be, her stick side. You have the option of hooking if she is in the act of swinging or riding-off if the ball is further in front. All seems good and then she checks and crosses behind you with the ball, putting you on her nearside as she continues with the ball down the field. In a couple of moves, you got faked, have lost the stick- side advantage and are left with only a ride-off option. The fix is again a combination of rid- ing skill and anticipation, but I will add Marking your man without drawing an umpire's whistle When a defender comes in from the right side of the opponent on the ball, the opponent may try to accelerate to pull away or check to get behind the opponent. SHELLEY HEATLEY

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