POLO ADVICE FROM THE FIELD
|Sometimes, how you say something is as important as what you have to say. We
have started a collection of "Polo Advice" that we have picked up from on and off the field. If you have something
helpful that you would like
to share with other players, then please
Email Tom. Thank you.
The Hitchcock Philosophy - Tommy Hitchcock (advice to his 1930 Westchester Cup teammates)
New Lines on Polo Ponies - Ideas on Horsemanship, Polo and Schooling (by Eduardo Amaya)
"The faster you're going, the slower you hit." - Sinclair Hill (10 goal player - Australia's leading player in 50's, 60's and possibly 70's - via James Ashton)
"From the first, the foal of a noble breed steps higher in the field and brings down his feet lightly." - Virgil
"Play defense as hard as you play offense." - Lolo Castagnola (10 goal player - Argentina)
"Play Chess. It teaches you to think 2 moves ahead." - Glen Gilmore (7 goal player - Australia)
"Llegar, Pensar, Pegar (Arrive, Think, Hit)" - Santos Anca (5 goal player - Argentina)
"Never take a stride on the polo field without looking behind you." - Hugh Dawney (Polo Vision, Ireland)
"To get into position on attack, move away from the man marking you; this is what Cambiaso does." - Federico Bachmann (5 goal Argentinean).
"Polo is about communication - you have to communicate with your pony, your teammates and the enemy all the time." - Vichai Raksriaksorn (Thailand)
"Keep possession of the ball. Don't just hit it away. Even if you have a clean shot down field, wait." - Federico Bachmann (5 goal player - Argentina)
"Read the game, don't follow it. Use your head, not your body." - Hector Borrantes (8 goal Argentinean) (relayed via Federico Bachmann - 5 goal Argentinean).
"Be cool in front of the goal." - Eduardo Moore (via Tengku Abdul Rahman 2 goal player from the Royal Pahang Polo Club in Malaysia who has been playing for 25 years and comes from a long line of Royal polo players).
"You get 10 stops in a chukka!" If you think this way, you can conserve the energy of your pony, by trying to minimize the number of times you shut down and stop your pony in a chukka. For example, you ride onto the field to the line up and STOP. That is one of your 10 stops; you have 9 left. The idea is to think about the horse and to not pull back and shut down without thinking, because when the horse is tired, it won't stop anymore. It takes a lot of energy to stop. - Matias Magrini (9 goal - Argentina) (relayed via Nicolas Pieroni who worked with him in North Carolina)
"If you ride well, you've got something to offer. The most important thing is balance on the horse and getting your 1/2 seat right. Working on your riding is the quickest way to improve your polo. Riding with short reins and light contact is better for turning, because the neck is more responsive at the top." - Jamie Le Hardy (6 goal player England; Young player of the year 1995; Winner Gold Cup 1997)
"The 'Cola' or 'Tail Shot' is one of the quickest ways to turn the ball around on defense. When the back makes this shot, his teammates have a better angle to join the line on their offside. The opponents have a greater chance of fouling with this shot, because they usually have to cross the line to take it on their offside, or take it on their nearside." - Daniel Gonzales (5 goal one-eyed player - Argentina) (relayed via Federico Rosales who met him in Texas and California)
"The ball should move down the field diagonally, not in a straight line. Think of playing to the sides, then toward the goal for better tactics and visability." - Federico Bachmann (5 goal player - Argentina)
"It is most important to play as a team. It is the heart and head of the other players that gives the spirit to the game." - Canchi Andrada (2 goal player - president of Rio Cuarto Polo Club) (Grandson of Manuel Andrada El Paisano - 9 goal Argentinean; World Champion at 1936 Berlin Olympics; 6 time winner Abierto Argentina).
"He is a student of the game" - Federico Bachmann (5 goal Argentinean) speaking of 10 goal USA player Adam Snow.
"Polo seat - Sit on the front part of your ass. Hold on with the inside thigh and the calf - not the knees! Help the Horse by lifting yourself off of it." - Gustavo "Tapadora" Yañez (4 goal Argentinean).
"Hitting - Get your hand high for a long shot. Hit through the ball. Keep arm straight until it passes forward and above the shoulder. Give yourself space hitting the ball - not too close to the horse. Take your time on the ball. Ride your horse before you hit the ball. Set your horse up for the shot." - Jamie Le Hardy (6 goal England).
"Hitting - Really lean out!" For the back and forward shot, you need to lean out to get over the ball. - Federico Rosales (2 goal gaucho)
"Stopping" - Pull the reins to your neck. This lifts the horse's head, collects his back legs under him, and he stops. Hold him firmly with your legs. - Horacio Araya (via Dave Birrell, Zimbabwe)
"Rege-Style: Small toes up. Heels down. Knee to groin tight contact with the horse to hold a coin. Pyramid = balance and stability. 1/4 seat to 1/2 seat by rolling forward. 40 meters from the ball. weight to right stirrup. right eye over ball (head sideways). Hand (like a telephone) to the ear brings shoulders back. Swing like throwing a rock to the ground. Arm not straight (because angles have power). Shoulder - arm - wrist - index finger (pronate forearm). When lean over the ball, right foot back, right knee on, left foot out, left thigh on, pinch the horse. Hitting - put ball under shoulder. Dribbling - ball under the wrist. Nearside - ball under the elbow." - Rege Ludwig (USA polo instructor)
"Three DON'TS of tactics, riding & hitting: Where to go: Don't chase the ball. How to get there: Don't look at your pony. What to do when you get there: Don't hit too hard." - Hugh Dawnay (Polo Vision, Ireland)
"Too short a stirrup will make you off balance. Lean out onto the ball. Don't get up and out; reach out. Keep your body on the saddle. In front of the goal, keep the head of your stick in front of the legs of the horse." - Federico Bachmann (5 goal Argentinean).
"If you take your eyes off the ball to see the goal, then you are never going to get one." - Juan Manuel Echeverz (6 goal Argentinean).
"caballo lerdo, estribo largo; caballo ligero, estribo corto" (slow horse, long stirrups; fast horse, short stirrups). - Juan Manuel Echeverz (6 goal Argentinean).
"Use the tap, when you need; it gives you more time to make the good shot." - Franco Penizzitto (2 goal Argentinean).
"Don't be too strong with the horse; if you are feeling good with the horse, you can play more." - Carlos Rosales (relayed via his son Federico).
"Tactics - Hit away from the best player on the opposing team." - Mark Emmerson (3 goal England).
Stirrup length: "I use the same type of saddle with the same stirrup length for every horse I play on. When I stand up in the saddle, I always check that I am a fist's width above the saddle." - Gonzalo Pieres, Jr. (10 goal - Ellerstina Team).
"The key to hitting the ball well is to remain still in the saddle. Bautista Heguy is not that strong, but keeps very still and hits the ball better than most people. Balance is key." - Gonzalo Pieres, Jr. (10 goal - Ellerstina Team).
"Feel free to rest your left hand on the horse's neck to help yourself balance when you are standing up and hitting the ball." - Gonzalo Pieres, Jr. (10 goal - Ellerstina Team).
"Remember, riding a polo pony is done with the legs. 80% of the work is done by the knees and legs, and 20% is done with the hands. Balance with the knees is so important. Therefore, keeping a consistent stirrup leather length is good practice. Just check that your length is right for you and then stick with it. It's all in the knees and keeping still. Just watch Bautista... Cambiaso moves a little more, but he is an exception to this rule." - Gonzalo Pieres, Jr. (10 goal - Ellerstina Team).
"Ride from the legs - If you can play polo for 7 minutes on your knees (not sitting), this will give you a good shot. This will put yourself on the saddle without using the reins. The more you move on the back of a horse, the more you complicate its movement. A tight rein can help the horse if it stumbles (by lifting its head). Point your left shoulder at the ball when hitting." - Marco Focaccia (SPP polo round table 2007).
"Siempre caballero en la cancha" - always be a gentleman on the polo field. - Oscar Lujan (via his 4 goal son, Lucas Lujan)
Penalty Hits: Get your arm straight up behind you, then breathe in (which causes you to pause), then let the arm drop (don't force it) and breathe out as you swing through, push your shoulder through as you hit the ball, and follow through. - Nico Curto (4 goal - Indonesia Team Coach)
I think that the most important thing for all young players is riding the horse - horsemanship. If they improve that, and they work and work at that, the rest just comes easy. 90% of great polo players abilities come from riding the horse. If they make the horse play better, it is because he is a great rider. You have to guide the horse, direct the horse, and that comes from riding and riding and riding. To handle your horse well, you need "horse sense." This is horsemanship that calls for sensitivity and rhythm. It is a shared physical suppleness between the horse and rider. A bad rider lacks these qualities and is out of time with the horse. Handling the horse with both hands is very important, for in a game, we ride 95% of the time, and only hit 5% of the time. A harmonic, healthy, well-balanced horse will lean directly on its mouth. A bit in the horse's mouth is like care brakes, and if overused, then can be detrimental to the horse. A horse is trained to stop on order, not because you inflict pain. Double reins are used to achiever more precise control in spontaneous movements and a more precise effect with the bit on the horse's mouth. Double reins are particularly important for hi-goal polo. The upper rein is called the "contact" rein or "check" rein is for absorbing rough handling. The lower rein is more sensitive. Suppleness in the hip is essential to control your balance and to change with the horse's movements. Also, you will be freer to rotate your shoulders independently of the horse's rhythm. Keep knee articulation flexible, because this is what gives you the exact distance between hand and the ball. Short reining is an attempt to find balance in the saddle at the expense of the horse's mouth; it is one of the most common mistakes by beginners and non-beginners. It affects the horse's mouth, your balance, and the horse's disposition. Good horsemanship requires permanent contact between the rein hands and the horse's mouth, except when we are hitting the ball; then we support ourselves with the neck or withers. Contact with the mouth is key - not too heavy, nor too light - balanced and pleasant. The longer the reins, the more we will use our legs and weight, which is a basic principal of good horsemanship. Holding the reins correctly, the horse is more confortable and the player has more freedom of movement. Learn the art of reading the game and anticipating the play. - Notes from Mike Azarro (9 goal player)