What types of horse breeds are popular for polo ponies? All types. A polo pony can be a horse of any size or breed that is used to play polo.
Polo ponies are asked to do a lot. They run fast and stop and turn on a dime. They must be comfortable getting bumped while running at full speed. And every once in a while, the horses and riders do get hit with a mallet or a ball. Some horses are not only good at playing polo ... they love playing polo!
It has often been said that "If your horse can't get to the ball, you can't hit it." In essence, the quality of a player's horse, or mount, has a direct effect on his performance. Polo ponies are known for their heart, speed, wind stamina and the ability to stop and turn quickly and thoroughbreds usually make the best polo ponies.
A pony's trainer strives to make him/her agile and responsive to every command and impulse of the rider. Often, the horse becomes so familiar with the game that s/he can anticipate various shots and maneuvers.
In the course of a high-goal, faced-paced polo game, the players and horses may gallop as much as 120 miles or 193.1 kilometers. At an average pace of 35 miles per hour or 56.3 kilometers per hour, it is clear to see why horses are changed after each 7 minute period or chukker.
During polo games to keep the horses safe and comfortable, their tail are tied up so they do not get tangled in the player's mallet. Their legs are bandaged for both support and protection against contact the the ball. Polo ponies also typically have their mane shaved so the hair does not get tangled in the reins and are carefully groomed to prevent interference with the mallet.
Like many sporting events that name a Most Valuable Player, in a polo game, a Best Playing Pony is named for the most valuable horse. A well deserved award for their hard work!
To many of us the term “green horn” is reminiscent of such TV westerns as “Gunsmoke”, “Maverick” and “Bonanza”. A “green horn” was a newcomer, someone who hadn’t yet been broken in to the ways of the Wild West. The same semantic sense of “green” holds with its use in the term “green horse” when applied to a polo pony. A “green horse” is a horse that has not yet been seasoned to the game of polo. S/he must be brought into the game cautiously and carefully. A player trying to “make” a green horse into an accomplished polo pony must be judicious in his/her choice of which plays to put the horse into, and which one to avoid. Too hard of a bump may frighten the horse and make him/her timid. Too many fast runs can result in a horse that tries to take off at full speed every time the ball is hit.
A new polo pony must be taught many things in order to excel at the game. By the time s/he comes to the stage of playing “green horse polo”, the horse should already be well-broken and have a good “handle” (the ability to stop, turn, neck rein, half turn and quarter turn and to work off his/her back legs). Teaching a horse to respect the bit, respond to the legs and to rein properly (to work off the back legs like a reining horse, and the front legs like a cutting horse) is an art and a skill all in its own and takes months of daily schooling to achieve.
After these basics, a new polo pony must be taught to “stick and ball”, to be comfortable with a player swinging a mallet off his/her back on both side, under the neck and behind the tail, and accustomed to the sound of a mallet hitting a ball. After getting accustomed to the swing of the stick and the hitting of the ball s/he is taught to approach the ball properly - not too far away, not too close, an holding steady all the while.
This accomplished, the trainer can now begin to play the horse in “green horse” chukkers - non tournament play, where the pace is slower and much less competitive. In this atmosphere, the horse learns to meet other horses without turning away, to ride other horses off and to take a “bump” without hesitating. The trainer also continues to work on the horse’s responsiveness, teaching him/her to jump out quickly, to stop and turn even more quickly and to alternate speeds.
This last is known as “giving a horse gears” and this is the trait of a truly well trained polo pony. A polo pony that can go from stop to top speed at the squeeze of the legs and back down again at the gentle tug of one’s fingers is a valuable horse, indeed, and can do wonders for a player’s game.
The training process, however, is a long one. Most horses which make it to the top spend at least a full season playing slower, more concentrated green horse polo before being exposed to tournament play. That first season of the tournament play is also a cautious one, with the trainer watching closely the horse’s progress and state of mind. For the most common pitfalls in bringing a new horse into the game is pushing the animal too fast or putting him/her into fast competitive play before s/he’s really ready. (The result of this error is most commonly a horse becoming “rapid”, i.e. wanting to run off at high speed every time the play takes off around him/her, or the ball is struck - and not wanting to slow down or stop without a struggle on the rider’s part.)
The evolution of a polo pony prospect, from a green horse to a well made finished polo pony takes anywhere from 2 to 3 seasons, with many potential pitfalls along the way. This helps explains why good polo ponies are worth so much money and why players are so attached to their horses and put so much time and effort into it for the sake of these magnificent athletes.
Endless training, a lot of patience and time involved, but definitely worth all of the effort to have a hose with Polo Soul.