Well trained ponies are incredibly important in polocrosse. Having great stick and ball sticks looks impressive but if you can’t get the ball quickly enough or get your pony into the right place to stop players scoring or tackle them then being flashy with a polocrosse stick doesn’t really help.
So what are we looking for in a polocrosse pony? It’s actually the same things you would look for in any well trained pony. A good way of remember what is important is just think of the word “CLASS”. This stands for:
C = Calm – Your pony needs to be calm and confident, comfortable with other ponies being close to it and with polocrosse equipment. Most ponies will learn to be calm but don’t rush things, take it slowly and introduce your pony gradually to the equipment and the sport.
L = Light – Your pony needs to be responsive to light aids. You want your pony to stop quickly when you ask and move off your leg aids, including sideways movements and even backwards. So good, basic schooling is really important and this does take time.
A = Agile – Your pony needs to be able to turn quickly. To do this it will have to be well balanced and have all the correct muscles to be able to put more of its weight on its hindquarters, as that is the point it should turn around. Getting a pony to do really advanced moves (like a full 360 degree spin) takes time and you have to build up to them in small steps. Other sports like jumping and dressage also help develop your ponies muscles and agility.
S = Supple – Polocrosse ponies need to be able to stop and change direction quickly, so it is important that they are supple and not less flexible one way or another. You can check your pony is supple by using baited stretches as well as ridden exercises.
S = Strong – Your pony will need to be fit and well muscled, because without this it won’t be able to perform the moves you need it to or also play a whole match without getting tired. To get you pony fit make sure you are doing lots of fittening work, such as long rides and canter work. Going cross country riding and doing things like endurance rides are also great for fitness.
Improving your ponies in all these areas take time and effort. And it is definitely not just a case of playing polocrosse lots to improve them, as that can actually lead to ponies learning poor techniques as they are trying to do moves when they aren’t ready and do them too quickly. Also you as a rider need to work on training a pony without a stick in your hand to make sure you are giving them the correct aids and helping them as much as possible.
So it is important to work on your moves off the polocrosse field and learn to do them slowly and in stages. It is actually harder for ponies to do some moves slowly but it is important for them to be able to do all the moves slowly as well as quickly – this makes them far stronger and ultimately far better
It is good to use a whole range of training techniques to make your pony as good as possible. Exercises such as pole work and doing other activities like jumping or dressage all help to build up your ponies muscles and teaches them vital skills.
When you are training ponies it is useful to have support of a good coach but don’t think you need a specialist polocrosse coach to help you with training your pony. There are lots of great pony club coaches who can work with you to make a pony CLASS! Coaches who coach dressage, show jumping and eventing are all very used to working with riders to get their horses fit, well muscled, balanced and responsive.