Okay, so I've recently acquired a ten year old polo pony that, unfortunately, has a few minor foot problems that the owner didn't want to bother with. She's still perfectly sound, and quite hot - and strong - at times [thoroughbreds!]. My lovely little mare, Danika.
I've found out a few things about her previous gear, but apart from that, I'm at a loss. I've ridden her enough now in a Dr. Bristol to know she hates jointed bits. I have tried other things, including having our resident back-cracker check her over. Saddle was professionally fitted, so it's definitely the bit. I am training her, but I need, well, a quick fix between then and now to stop her head tossing [she wears a standing martingale, currently, but I intend to jump her so that must go] and ease her discomfort until she's ready to be happy with a snaffle. I had a waterford suggested, but I'm reluctant as I can't seem to find anything explaining the particular action and severity of these bits.
Most polo ponies go in some sort of gag or a pelham. If she hates jointed bits, she may be inclined to go in a straightbar pelham or straightbar gag. Or she may have been played roughly and acquired the habit of head-tossing (if her old owners didn't want to "bother" with her hoof problems, they may not have minded the head tossing either). If the later is the case, she may head toss no matter what bit you've got on her.
Depending on how experienced the person was who played her, the way they bitted her would've depended upon how she went on the field and if she was still green. Both bits work in very different ways and (to make things even more confusing), gags will work differently depending on the shape of the rings. If you have access to a couple of gags and a pelham, you might beg, borrow or steal them to see if you put one on and she suddenly goes "thank god".
You could try draw reins on her (very common in polo, particularly with strong, fussy horses). Just to note, polo people do not run draw reins down between the legs. Instead they run through the rings and attach to the girth. For what it's worth, some horses become very dependent upon tie-downs/standing martingales. If she's been played a lot in one (particularly if they've had it cinched down tight) she may have learned to rely upon it for balance during quick turns and, once you remove it, she may start "fishing" about for the standing to lean upon.
If she were my horse, I'd probably take her straight back to a snaffle. She's not going to be used to much contact anyway, so she's most likely going to need quite a bit of education before you can ask her for anything very advanced. If her mind has been blown (which is a possiblity since you mention she's quite strong) you will have a lot of work to do. She may also be head tossing because you're taking up contact with her and she hasn't a clue what you want.
Other than that, consider anything that could be physically wrong. Definitely get her teeth checked. One other possiblity is headshaking syndrome. My green polo mare developed this just this year after moving to a different climate and she really can't help herself. We've gotten it somewhat under control with medication but it seems to be a relatively new syndrome and vets don't always recognize it (my mare garnered a crowd about 20 senior vet students when she was diagnosed). Once you've seen it, it's impossible to mistake for a behavioral problem.
The contact on the bit that has been mentioned before would be my guess after her teeth are checked. I have a lovely little polo mare that rides easily in a short shank broken pelham with no contact until you want something, but heaven help you in a kimberwick or snaffle. She gets pissy and strong with a definite chance of runaway. She hates contact of any kind. All my polo ponies will start to jig and become unsettled if someone starts to ride them with contact and sits deep in the saddle since they are not trained to go that way. Try getting on your mare and going out and just cantering on a loose rein immediately in a circle as they do in polo and see if she relaxes into it.
Well, there's one whoops for me already. I forgot to mention her teeth were done last week. Thank you all for your great advice, and I think I have found the solution. We've had new neighbors move in, and Lisa, who owns the house/property, happened to mention her father was a retired "low-goal" polo player after we had a chat over the fence and Danny decided to come and say hello as well. I gave him a call, and he's agreed to come and check out Danny for me, and suggested what bit I should be looking for. You see, she's not so strong that she needs a full blown gag or pelham, but she needs a little more than a snaffle.
The bit David suggested is a Bevel ring, and when I mentioned her dislike of jointed bits a custom mullen seemed ideal. I'm getting a custom made mullen from Australia, and should be here within a week.
Unfortunately, most of my friends are hunters [and subsequently confused as to why I want to get a polo pony that's been playing for the last four years]. They're very non-hoarding and have only the bits they constantly use. One of them even riders her 17.2hh Kingsway Diamond boy [Irish Draught] in a twisted wire scissor bit. God help her if she ever comes near one of my horses with one of those things.
A pelham is actually a very nice bit. You ride on the snaffle rein until you need the curb rein (if you ever need it). As someone else said, that's the type of bit they are used to and it would certainly serve you well if she likes it - I love pelhams
Well, it's probably too late, but a CUSTOM bit?? yikes.
There's nothing 'wrong' with a 'full blown pelham or gag'. They are bits, like any other. Both are fine when used with sympathetic hands. You can do plenty of damage with a so-called 'fat snaffle'. I ride of mine in a rubber gag, on the curb only! Horrors!! Quiet as a church mouse in that, pulling me over his head in his Waterford.
Your pony is used to being ridden VERY differently than you probably do.
First, lengthen your reins. Choke up on a polo pony and you get a 15 hand Hippty-Hop.
Second, sit up. No, really, sit UP. Sounds stupid, but leaning up the neck or posting with the motion can also produce the Hippity-Hop. But I don't mean cram your seat into her back, just get closer to vertical. You don't play polo from the dash board, and that's what she's used to.
Third, don't ditch the standing right away, but you can start to loosen it a bit. She went in one for a long time, 86'ing it now will confuse the crap out of her. BTW, until you are doing the Jumpers for 'real' money, there's nothing wrong with that standing martingale. They are perfectly fine to use until the prize money restrictions come into play.
My cheap thrill twice a week was to warm up a player's Criollo for practices and games. She needed 2 laps around the field in each direction to get the edge off to play well. That's 4 fast laps. Head spinning fast for a hunter princess. It took me a while to trust that she wouldn't kill me when I chucked the reins at her, and it took until I stopped leaning up her neck (in a tiny half-seat) for her to trust I wasn't going to knock her off balance. She went in a little too much bridle, IMO, but it did work, a twisted wire gag, drop nose and draw reins. Squeeze your fingers and look over your shoulder and you got a neat rollback and a clean lead change. The wire mouth was overkill, a smooth mouth would have been just fine.
I agree with what Pat said. I worked for a summer as a polo groom a few years back. These horses are not used to being ridden the way jumpers/hunters do. I tried to give them a balanced work with going both directions with them but Just trying to get one of the ponies to pick up the left lead was a trick. The one mare just went bonkers if you tried to get her to pick up that other lead... she just didn't understand and got frustrated... she tried.... but she just didn't understand what I wanted her to do... and like a hot head... she got frustrated.
Their GO button is very sensitive too... so you will first have to figure her out and then try to reteach her some new buttons. Polo ponies are very much programed so you will have to reprogram her... and it will likely take some time.
Perhaps you can try using a hackamore while you try to find a bit she likes? If her mouth has been abused in the past, then this might give her a break from the bit and allow you to start re-training her a bit as well.... just an idea...
I have to add, that it's probably not the bit. Really. It's that *she* is a polo pony and *you* are a h/j person. You are NOT speaking the same language. You both need a little 'second language' training. She's a hot TB, it's going to take a while.
That Criollo pony literally didn't speak English. I didn't ride them daily, I was made to free lunge them in a round pen. The other 2 ponies understood "english" commands to change gait. Mirella did not. I had to figure out what made her work, it was a combination of body language, whirry noises, clicks and coos. It musta sounded like that African language with the clicking noises!
Also, I re-read post one again. Do understand that a Dr. Bristol is a pretty strong bit. It's not that it's jointed, it's the way it lays on the tongue. It does not lay flat and puts ALOT of pressure on the tongue. If I were a pony used to a mullen pelham, I'd be pretty cheesed by a Dr. Bristol. If you are set on a jointed mouth, try something closer to the one in that photo. The "lozenge" type and French link mouths lay across the tongue in a gentle manner. They are good for soft mouthed horses and especially for mouths that are narrow. I use a mouth like that on Dallas the Wonder Ayrab mostly because he has such a narrow jaw; it's pretty hard to avoid popping him in the palate. I like the lozenge type and I have two of those "anatomical" types. Niether will pop them in the palate because of the shape.
Waterfords aren't necessarily severe. They DO make it harder (not impossible) for a horse to lug or lean on the bit. But I have found they find a way to lug eventually, so I tend to save those for 'occaisions', like he flats in X, but he jumps and shows in the Waterford.
I don't know if I'd use a Waterford on a head tosser, as I don't think it would matter. Once you eliminate physical causes of head tossing, you have to look to training problems (or more likely, differences) for the answer. If it's the tack, it's because it doesn't fit and simply changing it usually does the trick right away.
you are getting some great advice here. I put a hunter princess up on a polopony who had just played 2 indoor chukkers and was pretty tuckered. (she had always wanted to ride this horse so I figured she could walk/trot him for a bit) Holy crap - the next thing i know the horse is doing side passes across the arena completely bent up in a pretzel and looking like it is about to explode. She put her whole hunter "pick up contact, add leg, sit deep into this tired horse and he reacted." She has watched alot of polo too, but never thought twice about her riding style differences when she got on and since she could feel all that pent up power - she would not let go either. OMG- I was so sorry for my pony...
There is the difference that the other people were talking about. Horse in shortshanked pelham for me - going quietly, responding to my seat, relaxed and happy. In short shanked pelham for HP- explosive, reactive and wildeyed
think about it....
Pat already wrote the post I would have. Get off her mouth. It's not the bit, it's that she has never been ridden on contact or anything resembling it in her life and you're going to have to introduce that very slowly.
I showed my polo ponies (they played half the year and showed half the year) in a full cheek Dr. Bristol and they loved it. But I have video from those days and you can see that I'm faking contact - I basically tried to keep a loop out of my rein without ever actually giving them anything to resist against.
She'll do fine but this is like retraining from scratch in a totally different discipline for her.
And don't think we are accusing you of hanging on her mouth. I doubt that you are. But from her perspective, you are.
You are speaking one language, she's speaking another. You''ll both have to find each other in the middle.
It can be intersting....
One of the most frightening 10 minutes of my life was spent on an Arab broke for saddleseat. Can we say "runaway"??!! Uh, yeah, stupid, SS people use virtually NO leg contact, get your calves of that critter and she'll stop running away from them. YIKES. Good thing there was somebody there to tell me that I was freaking the mare out and making the foolishness happen.
A friend of mine got a retired STB and wanted to show it in driven pleasure classes. She got herself a cart and harness, and shipped to a small private track to practice driving as she had no space at home. At "home" she could go both directions without a problem, and they were doing pretty well together. When they called for a reverse to go to the left at her first show, he left town!! In a ring full of horses, he thought they had made 'the turn' and it was time to race! YIPE! STB's "jog" going to the right, and "train" and race to the left. OOps!