Seeing a Polo horse stop is spectacular ! It requires a great amount of energy. The horse that stops well does it mainly with his hindlegs, putting them under his body. The forelegs reduce the movement of inertia. Maybe you have wondered yourself how many times does a horse stop in a chukker ? For sure a lot more than what you may have thought about.
When you talk about stopping, first of all you must take this into account : the horse that does not stop is useless to play Polo. All horses in the wilderness stop perfectly ; the problem appears when the rider rides it and puts his weight on it backwards the center of balance. During its training, the horse must be taught how to rebalance to be able to stop correctly. Each time a horse stops, he must face the strength of inertia ; a strength of the same scale, same direction but opposite to its moving.
A popular belief thinks that a horse stops because he feels pain when the rider adjusts his reins but that is not correct. The horse has been taught to receive orders in sensitive parts of his mouth and to obey orders which together with a proper rider’s seat result in a perfect stop.
Actually it is a mechanism that implies pushing the horse from the seat to the hands. The hands form a blocking, a limit using the reins ; we must bear in mind this way of doing in which the horse can not lean against the hands and he will not be allowed to move more than the hands allow him to do so. Consequently, it is more important to move the horse forward thanks to the seat rather than using the hands and the reins.
If the Polo players learnt to ride,in balance, with their seat rather than using their hands to stop their horses they would be better riders and they would keep their horses longer ; their mouth would be less used and therefore less damaged.
Using properly his seat, the Polo player can use his hands correctly.
To sum up, in order to stop the rider must :
1) make himself taller on the horse rising his hands with the reins to his center.
2) make his hip turn seating deeply in the saddle.
3) bend slightly his chest backwards.
4) his thighs must be forward and downward, enabling fixedness with knees and calfs.
5) be balanced on his stirrups with the feet right under the body, never forward.
6) his knees must be like shock absorbers when stopping.
If the horse does not obey those movements, then he must use his feet to kick him to obey.
During the stopping, it is essential that the hands act slightly but continuously (with stronger and stronger actions) but never in a clumsy or continuous way.
It is a great satisfaction to know that one’s horse obeys braking correctly in any situation during a match. Out of consideration for him, his mouth needs to be taken care of, which is his dashboard ; it is unique and irreplaceable.
Posted in How-to, Polo