How Do Condition Polo Ponies for Competition-Answering Your Polo Questions

answering your polo questions polo pony training Apr 21, 2022

Do you find that your horses are a bit sluggish on the first day of a tournament? You may be conditioning them incorrectly.

Here we chat about how to get the most out of your horses, without burning them or compromising their longevity. How to exercise them correctly to get the most out of them, depending on where you are in the season.

How Do Condition Polo Ponies for Competition


Kathy Greenman then asked. She just, she actually just wrote, 'Conditioning polo ponies for competition'. Okay.

So, I saw the question and it's quite a difficult one to answer because it's not really specific. I'm not sure if we answering about how to bring horses back if they've been out of work or how to keep them fit for competition when they in work and in the season.

So, you know, if they'd been out of work, for me, the sort of general rule of thumb is for every month they've been out, they need a week of working, of walking before they start to trot.

And you would also then add sort of, you would start with a half an hour walk and a 15 minute trot, and then you would build it up to a half an hour walk and a 20 minute trot and slowly build it up that way until they taught him half an hour.

Now you're going to start to bring them in and single the horse, and stick and ball it. And then gradually increase the speed of the stick and ball sessions until, and cut back on the time.

To start, it would be a nice long, easy stick and ball just to get the horse, you know, breathing and tucking it's tummy up. And then you're going to start to get it aerobically fit by doing it a little bit quicker with the stops and turns and things like that.

Don't overdo that though, because it's wear and tear on the horse, and the more you do it, the shorter your horses are going to last you, but you do have to do it to put some air into them.

You're then going to play them chukkas. And I would suggest that your first chukka is a half chukka. You know, three and a half minutes horse off the field.

And you can eventually gradually build that time up until they're seeing a chukka through, at a slower pace. Don't push the horse at the beginning.

Then start to, you know, now we're getting towards competition and you're starting to push that horse and get it aerobically fit. So, you pushing it for three and a half minutes, really hard, get it off the field.

If it's a horse that you are, it's in the middle of the season, then you have to really figure out how often in the week you're playing. If you only playing on the weekend and you're playing Friday, Saturday, for example, or Saturday, Sunday, then through the beginning of the week, if you've, let's say you've played Friday, Saturday, Sundays an off day, in most stables. Okay.

Or if maybe that's only an Egypt here with Fridays a weekend, if you play Saturday, Sunday, Monday is an off day through the rest of the world. Give the horse a break on that Monday, walk it on the Tuesday, give it a good trot on the Wednesday, give it a little bit of air, sort of aerobic work on the Thursday and you playing it, you know, just another trot on a Friday and you're playing it Saturday, Sunday.

So, that would be, but if you playing a three days a week and your tournaments are spread out, let's say you're playing on a Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, or something like that.

Give it a nice, good long, easy walk on the days between just to get it stretched out and get those sore muscles done, you know, and stretched out. And that that's as close as I can get to an answer from this question, because I'm not quite sure exactly what is being asked here. 

Yeah Gav, I think you've answered that really nicely, it's it's hard to answer it without having a little bit more specification on the question, but I think, I think for most people that's, you know, very useful takeaway pointers on, sort of a general scenario of what you can be doing because clearly everyone's situation is slightly different depending on the amounts that they playing, the level that they're playing. Yeah. So, I think that was...

I think that the biggest mistake people make if they're going to go and play, let's say they're going to play Friday, Saturday. They give the horse an easy off day on Thursday and they get into that Friday game and the horse is lethargic and dead. And on Saturday it plays really well.

Where, if you just do a bit of aerobic work on the Friday, you know, and just get it breathing and get it kind of air in its lungs and things like that, and get it mobile. Get it sharp. Don't do it too long, you've got it sharp, you find on the Saturday, you go to play the game and you've got a sharp horse under you, it's not this lethargic dead animal.

And that, that's a really big thing to be honest, is the day before you play it, just get it moving and get it really sharpened up a little bit, you know, not long, just a little bit to put some air in it. 

Yeah, I was listening to or watching the, high goal in the states and at halftime during one of the games, the commentators, what's his name, Toby Wayman? His father was a 10 goal. Yeah, Tommy's son.

He was, he was just, I think he was talking about, I think it was [inaudible] side, one of the main sides and what they do before a game day.

So, if they're playing like, so it's Thursday afternoon, on Wednesday morning they have practice chukkas. And, and they, I think they generally like half chukka all of the horses and they just get them out there and get them playing and get them sharp.

And it's obviously not competitive, you know, but it's, and it just gets them. And then the following day, they're good to play. And, and I, you know, I find it so often if, if we haven't given our horses that session the day before, on the actual day, they're always just off the pace.

So, sluggish. Just off the pace, and then the next day they are just, they firing. You're looking at a high goal team in the U S open there, and they've got the whole set up to be able to go and play a chukka for the horse. Yeah. So, exactly what, what Toby's saying.

But if you're a single player and you don't have that luxury, take the horse and go and do some quick work with it. Don't go and stick and ball, or do anything. Work for the horse, and work it until it's breathing reasonably hard and quit.

Because it's quite interesting, I used to do quite a lot of work back in the day with a race horse trainer called Terrence Millard. And Terrance won every big race in South Africa.

And he used to take blood almost on a daily basis and spin it, to see what the difference, what the ratio between the hemoglobin, the red blood, and the white blood corpuscles was. Okay.

Because, and he'd find that the horses that didn't have enough, you know, hemoglobin, he would give him a good stern, you know, push and they automatically generate the hemoglobin because they, the body is telling them, hey, you're running out of oxygen here, and they get into those main races and win them.

And he told me this, and I found that the horses that didn't see out a chukka, I was doing that and working them any aerobically, not aerobically because the long trotting is aerobic work. I would take them.

And, you know, once like early in the week really use the horse very strongly until you could feel it dying under you, then quit dead, and just walk the horse calm, don't trot it out. Don't do anything more.

And I promise you by the end of the week, that horse was seeing a chukka out, no problem at all. That's very interesting. Yeah.

So, it's just, you know, that stress makes the body react and, the same with us, I would guess. Yeah.

Just to add to that point, though Rob, I'm worried that with what I've said, that guys are going to go out now every week and kill the horses. Burn their horses. Okay. Cause that's going to detract from the longevity of the horse.

If the horse is seeing out a chukka and it's good, then just a bit of air in it the day before the game is enough. If it's a horse that keeps, you know, kind of dying with energy at the end of a chukka, then you need to do that once or twice. And you will find that the horse is find for quite a while.

I'm not advocating, going to go and kind of school that horse to such a point, because you're going to end up with strained tendons and you know, other issues.

And not to do it at the beginning of the season. When the horse isn't quite yet fit, and this is it's first set of chukka's, and it didn't last the whole, you know, got tired half way through the chukka, and you got out and burn it the next week. No. Cool. No, that's that's great. Good, good clarification.