For Spot and I, going from polo to dressage has been quite the tumultuous journey.
Going from this:
Has been interesting to say the least and our training curve has not exactly been the most straight forward. I thought I’d start this post off by describing the issues we had when first starting out.
The first thing we worked on was to ditch the whole double bridle thing and see if we could work in a snaffle. I thought I was going to be in for a rodeo the first time I had her in a snaffle but she did amazingly well in the arena but going out on a trail ride with others was another story. Whenever Spot was with a group of horses and we decided to go trotting she became this fire breathing dragon (Trogdorrr!!) and wanted to race everyone. I’d ask for a trot and suddenly we’d be doing a strong canter which would startle all the other horses and they’d take off after her. Not to mention, if a horse was next to her and inching away, she’d try to ‘ride off’ him or her to the surprise of the other rider and myself. I wasn’t the most fun trail riding buddy for a while…did I mention that Spot was/is a good polo pony? 😛 Either way, Spot settled into riding all the time in a simple bit and in time we were able to go on a long rein trail ride.
The 2nd issue we had to work through was the concept of contact. In polo, a check on the rein means come to a screeching halt while giving rein means warp speed away. I remember reading an article about how pricing of polo ponies was based on their stopping ability; one tug on the reins = $50k, 2 tugs = 30k, and so on and so forth. Spot was perfectly content to trot and canter on a long rein, but once I took up some sort of contact her head would shoot up, she’d sit back, stop and be like ‘where do you want me to turn, mom? I don’t see a ball”. In the end though, it just took time to have Spot settle down and realize she wasn’t being asked to play polo anymore, but developing the correct contact for dressage is another story for another post.
A 3rd issue was the fact that Spot wouldn’t/couldn’t pick up a left lead canter. Polo is a very right lead dominant discipline as players are only allowed to play with the mallet in their right hand. Yup, that’s right…doesn’t matter if you’re naturally a lefty. Sucks to be you. 😛 Now, that doesn’t mean that at polo speed that she couldn’t do flying leads but she definitely had a difficult time picking up the left lead right away. However, not all polo horses are like this, good polo players school their horses on both leads in order to make them more balanced, but sadly a lot of polo players don’t have that great of horsemanship. With this situation, I had to make sure she wasn’t in pain if she physically couldn’t get that lead. When I was sure it wasn’t I realized it was just a matter of building the strength and coordination for it. When I had bought her, she was pretty chubby and out of shape so I had to gradually bring her back to work.
Those were a biggest training hurdles when we first started out so I’ll leave it at that for today. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the techniques, exercises. and training methodology we’ve used to develop our dressage base. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!