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Exercising Polo Ponies

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  • Exercising Polo Ponies

    I was recently offered the opportunity to exercise some polo ponies for a little extra cash. I spoke with the gentleman once who said the horses are very used to working together: you ride one and pony two. I'm a hunt seat rider and my only experience ponying 2 horses at once was at the walk for maybe 100 yards.

    I told him I want to try it before I commit to anything, so I'll be going out there on Sunday to meet him and ride/exercise the horses. However, I would love some advice on this situation. Any advice would be super helpful!

    Thanks!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

  • #2
    I was a polo groom for years, and at that point my background was only hunter/jumper and eventing.

    It took some getting used to, but if the polo ponies are not green, they know their job and the drill of doing sets and it's fairly easy to catch on to and FUN. Before long I was riding one and ponying 4. It's really a balancing act of knowing which horse to put where in the line up. The pecking order translates into polo sets, so figuring out which horse is happiest where is key.

    Be ready to do lots of wraps, using bits you've not seen before (half moon balding gag, anyone?) and depending on how many horses you are signing up for, hard but rewarding labor.

    Just be open to suggestions and you'll be fine.

    Exercising and grooming for polo will get you very fit! My arms and abs never looked as good as they did when I was doing that job! So be sure to reap the benefits and buy lots of sleeveless shirts
    "Aye God, Woodrow..."

    Comment


    • #3
      The horses really should know exactly what to do, since they get ponied all the time.

      Do make sure you ride at all gaits on each horse before ponying, just to make sure you're comfortable. Two major points of difference: polo ponies are not used to leg contact and generally any touch with one or both legs means 'go'. Polo ponies also have a "whoa" that'll flip you off over their ears if you aren't prepared. Also, one minor point, some owners don't want their mounts trotting under saddle, even for conditioning, so make sure you're clear on expectations.

      Unless these guys are trained for exercise in a regular bridle, you'll need to figure out the polo bridle (usually a gag, maybe a pelham, double bridle, etc). That means riding with 4 reins in one hand. One set of reins is direct and are pretty much what you're used to holding, though the polo pony will probably want less contact than you do. The other set is air brakes, so keep some slack in them and make sure you're sitting deep if you tweak 'em.

      Have fun! You'll find that polo ponies tend to be some of the most honest, easy-to-handle horses around, and they're a BLAST to ride. Really, the biggest downside is cleaning all that leather and equipment.
      ---------------------------

      Comment


      • #4
        Exercising polo ponies was my daughter's summer job for three years. She had a blast. Enjoy. You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

        Comment


        • #5
          I worked with a team of ponies for 3 years in middle school and high school...best job I've ever had and the most fun I've ever had on horseback. I loved those ponies!

          Comment


          • #6
            Enjoy it! I've got 7 going right now in sets of 3-5 at a time depending on how much 'mare drama' I feel like putting up with

            You will develop ultra-fine coordination skills, being able to subtly pull/whoa each horse's rope to keep all noses 'in-line' (which is the ideal to keep a peaceful set). You don't want one to get ahead, or try and pull behind especially as they can run up on the heels or even trip the horse you are riding. Polo ponies are smart types, if they start to pin ears and make faces at each other a sharp growl will usually sort them out! Verbal threats work too.

            I would imagine you will be using an exercise bridle with one rein, so don't worry about double reins.

            Make sure and get a picture of you out on a set! It makes for some of the best action shots.
            http://pets.webshots.com/photo/24497...XYy?vhost=pets
            http://pets.webshots.com/photo/24723...DtP?vhost=pets

            *And the trotting thing is way antiquated, most good polo folks now realize the benefits of trot work for putting a bottom on them and hardening up legs. Mine jog and do long walks for a full month before we start any canter work.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by sportinghorsepolo View Post
              *And the trotting thing is way antiquated, most good polo folks now realize the benefits of trot work for putting a bottom on them and hardening up legs. Mine jog and do long walks for a full month before we start any canter work.
              Thank dog for that. The people I rode for (couple different clubs) insisted on using full playing tack and never a trot <insert rolly eyeballs>. I exercised my own in a snaffle doing trot sets on hills...

              Still, the OP does need to confirm the details. Polo folk are no less opinionated (whether they have good ones or not!) than any other horse owner...
              ---------------------------

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by WildBlue View Post
                Still, the OP does need to confirm the details. Polo folk are no less opinionated (whether they have good ones or not!) than any other horse owner...
                And when polo is done wrong, it can be verrry very wrong...

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Oh good! This makes me really excited. The guy has his horses right across the street from my trainer so she's seen him out there and say's they do trot a lot and all the horses seem well behaved, but I will make sure to confirm the amount of trotting, etc.

                  This may seem like a silly question, but I've always ponied the outside horse with the lead "normal" and down and in front of the middle horse (like in sporting's photos) but a friend just asked me if the outside lead should be over the middle horse so the middle horse can't push through that lead accidentally or even on purpose. This seems like a logical thought but just seems... weird. If there a correct way to organize all the lead ropes?
                  Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    They will tell you exactly how to do it. Wear gloves, and if you need to adjust things as you ride, keep riding, keep moving,and adjust them...asking several horses to whoa and then go again, when they know the drill and expect to make let's say 4 laps ...will just aggravate the situation.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      you'll be trained I'm sure. Everything everyone has said thus far is spot on.
                      Honestly the hardest part is lining them all up and then mounting without everyone losing formation. While you get used to it you may want a helper to hold heads while you hop on.

                      have FUN!

                      and no lower leg. heed the warning! even brushing their sides means ZZZzzippidy doo dah!
                      www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Go for it!

                        I got into polo a few years ago as an adult re-rider, and have never looked back. It's some of the most fun you'll ever have on top of a horse.

                        The thing about polo ponies is that they're all communists. They live together, eat together, stand tied to the rail/trailer together, travel together, exercise together, play together, and even wear the same tack sometimes....finish chukker, take bridle off of Horse A, wipe the bit on a rag, and put it on Horse B. Everything they do, they do as a collective proletarian unit, and YOU are the bourgeois overlord. Treat them like the professionals they are, and with the respect and kindness that you would any equine teammate, and they'll respond in kind. Be an ass to them, and they will revolt en masse.

                        Because they're all proletarian and you're the bourgeoisie, you might at first think they have NO personalities, or that they've all had the personality beaten out of them. Not true...they're just subtle about showing it until they've decided that YOU will treat them well, and then you get to discover all sorts of interesting things about them. Who's a slob, who's a dainty lady who expects to be treated like one, who is all out hell during a chukker but the most superb child/beginner/timid-rider babysitter on four legs off the field, etc.

                        About stopping, since coming from the H/J world it's not the same--roll your weight back on your seat bones, put your heels down and stick your feet out in front of you to brace yourself, because they will stop like a reiner and you will go flying if you don't have something to push against. Even in a plain snaffle. Even in a sidepull!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Second, or third, or however many times support the comment that grooming/exercising polo ponies will get your ass fit in a hurry!

                          Only other comment? Have fun!!!

                          (I'm a litttttle jealous!)
                          True Bearing Equestrian
                          St. Helena Island, SC

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Helen_S View Post
                            Go for it!

                            I got into polo a few years ago as an adult re-rider, and have never looked back. It's some of the most fun you'll ever have on top of a horse.

                            The thing about polo ponies is that they're all communists. They live together, eat together, stand tied to the rail/trailer together, travel together, exercise together, play together, and even wear the same tack sometimes....finish chukker, take bridle off of Horse A, wipe the bit on a rag, and put it on Horse B. Everything they do, they do as a collective proletarian unit, and YOU are the bourgeois overlord. Treat them like the professionals they are, and with the respect and kindness that you would any equine teammate, and they'll respond in kind. Be an ass to them, and they will revolt en masse.

                            Because they're all proletarian and you're the bourgeoisie, you might at first think they have NO personalities, or that they've all had the personality beaten out of them. Not true...they're just subtle about showing it until they've decided that YOU will treat them well, and then you get to discover all sorts of interesting things about them. Who's a slob, who's a dainty lady who expects to be treated like one, who is all out hell during a chukker but the most superb child/beginner/timid-rider babysitter on four legs off the field, etc.

                            About stopping, since coming from the H/J world it's not the same--roll your weight back on your seat bones, put your heels down and stick your feet out in front of you to brace yourself, because they will stop like a reiner and you will go flying if you don't have something to push against. Even in a plain snaffle. Even in a sidepull!
                            This is all so true.

                            Do pay attention to their personalities (and I'm sure the owners will have hints for you!) as that knowledge comes in quite handy when ordering them. There is nothing better than an older boss mare who will keep the younger ruffians on her side in order with just some pinned ears. It's also great to RIDE the boss horse, as it keeps the others from crushing your legs.

                            And don't be afraid to drag them in from the field together, either! At the polo barn where I boarded for quite some time, they brought everyone in six/seven/eight horses at a time, polo ponies and boarders alike!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              No lower leg and stops on a dime. Got it! See, this is why I love COTHers. Now that I think about it, both totally make sense, but it might not have occurred to me without some prior warning.

                              Another question: Stirrup length and seat. I'm comfortable in a wide range of stirrup lengths (on some horses my jumping length is 4 holes different from my flat) so what should I be aiming for here? It's a galloping sport so I'm thinking the shorter end, but I'm really not sure. Also, do most of them prefer a lighter seat for conditioning too or more of a full seat?

                              Obviously I'll ask the owner all of these questions and get a feel as I go I'm sure, but a little research never hurt.
                              Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I learned to do this watching the old Horse in Sport video on polo! They ponied six at a time! I've never even been close to polo, but I've ponied up to two horses all of the time. They're all mine, so I just tie one to the other's halter and lead one. It's a bit of learning to figure who best goes where, but the horses are good with it.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Wonders12 View Post
                                  Another question: Stirrup length and seat. I'm comfortable in a wide range of stirrup lengths (on some horses my jumping length is 4 holes different from my flat) so what should I be aiming for here? It's a galloping sport so I'm thinking the shorter end, but I'm really not sure. Also, do most of them prefer a lighter seat for conditioning too or more of a full seat?
                                  Go in whatever is most comfortable and secure for YOU for hacking out. You're not going to be galloping, you're not going to be playing, you're going to be starting with walk/trot sets and moving up to canter sets later. You won't be riding in a frame, and you'll find that the one you are riding doesn't need a lot of pushing forward from the seat--they know their job, and generally are pretty straightforward about working.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Ahh taking sets....story of my life! haha, I'm a polo groom and am currently getting 10 of our ponies in shape for spring season in Aiken. So, I'm taking 4 sets a day. I'll give you a few of my little tricks for making sets nice and easy. First of all, I always pony 2 on each side (my track isn't wide enough for 3) I put the lazy horses on the outside and the really forward ones on the inside. That way, they pull the lazy ones along and your arms don't go numb... I always try to ride the ponies that are reasonably quiet, comfortable, and that have a big stride. Some horse don't do well being ridden in sets, and those ones always just get ponied. Also, some of my horses getting exercised w/ muzzles on, so they don't try to eat the other ponies or my leg... Wearing gloves is definitely a good idea, sometimes they can really pull you. Also, I always have my ipod with me For the most part, polo ponies are really cool and well trained animals. Have fun!!! Try to stick and ball a little too!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      i lost 40 lbs (that i really needed to lose) in my first summer of exercising polo ponies back in 2002. i loved it. i loved how they all were well, communist as a previous poster stated!

                                      i guess we had dressage trained polo ponies. ours responded well to leg contact for turning, whoa, and go. i learned that the bossy mare would be ponied in my right hand and i'd anchor her down with the lazy one at the end of the line. our barn rule was we didn't have one pony exclusively for riding/ponying (except one-and no.. disco NEVER ponied unless you wanted to end up in the dirt chasing down all the other horses, owing a case of beer.). start off with your comfort zone. it's definitely a change from what you're normally used to. and definitely learn to stick and ball. and if you're working for who i used to work for (a private club in CA)-may the force be with you.

                                      as for those still in polo, i envy you! i miss it!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Wonders12 View Post
                                        This may seem like a silly question, but I've always ponied the outside horse with the lead "normal" and down and in front of the middle horse (like in sporting's photos) but a friend just asked me if the outside lead should be over the middle horse so the middle horse can't push through that lead accidentally or even on purpose. This seems like a logical thought but just seems... weird. If there a correct way to organize all the lead ropes?
                                        If you look at my picture, you'll see the rope is hanging "normally" and down. This is correct. If the lead is over the neck of the outside horse, it can cause a bit of panic! Trust me, it happens sometimes and they will voice their displeasure, and set you up for a situation to get "clotheslined" (ask your future boss about that scenario)

                                        Oh and I never tie horses together (one horses halter to another). I know some do and have no issues, but I've seen firsthand the wrecks that can result and its not a situation I'd put my girls in.

                                        As far as stirrup length, I ride a hole or two longer on sets, as someone mentioned its more hacking or flatwork length. I play shorter.

                                        Good luck and have fun! Polo is the most fun I've had in this lifetime, I can't get enough.

                                        Comment

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