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Franklin Levinson's

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Problem with my Polo Pony "Pasha"

Dear Sir,

I have read some of your articles with great interest on the internet.

My horse Pasha is a biggish horse 16.2 hands, yet it is very agile stops turns on a dime, great speed and stamina. It is what we call a 'half breed' meaning it is a cross between the thoroughbred and our local sub continent breed and these horses have been very successful in polo. The problem is that Pasha holds his head very high and at times especially during a fast game of polo he becomes hyper/nervous. I would like him to calm down and not hold his head so high can you please advise as to what I should do.

Regards, Amjad

Hello Amjad,

Thank you for your question. Polo players and horses from your country enjoy a world wide reputation for greatness. My horse life began in polo and I appreciate the 'sport of kings' very much. Let's see if I can help.

There are techniques you can try to help 'Pasha' calm and lower his head. The technique to request a horse to lower it's head is this; hold one rein in each hand (separate the reins), lower your hands to your leg height and simply alalow the weight of your hand only on the reins (the horse's mouth). Do not pull at all on the reins, merely keep thte weight of your hands on them. Eventually the horse will look to get away from the feeling of the pressure in its mouth. It will begin to move its head around looking for where the 'relief of the pressure' is to be found. The instant the horse moves his head where you want, you release all pressure. The horse is rewarded for lowering his head. Do you understand? First you practice this standing still, then at a walk, then a trot, canter, etc. You do not move faster until each step is accomplished and learned by the horse. There is no quick fix and this takes some time. But if you have the skill and desire it will work. A horse, being a prey animal, keeps its head up when nervous or looking for a predator. When a horse carries its head low it is relaxed, trusting and not worried about a predator. I encourage my horses to be 'collected' (head low and broken at the poll). This rounds the back and strengthens it. Unfortunately there is no short cut. You can try a martengale (tie down restraint). But my suggestion, if worked on consistently, will produce the desired outcome.

Some polo ponies I have known were very hyper. There wasn't much to do about this other than having the horses schooled a lot at a relaxed pace, with lots of small circles during stick and ball sessions. Try practice riding (schooling for polo) at a relaxed pace more. Maybe the horse will settle a bit from that. He only goes 'flat out' when in a serious game. Or he goes a little full speed during schooling and then goes right back down to a relaxed pace. Keeping him relaxed will be the best thing to do. Some polo ponies can play the game in relaxed mode even though they are moving all the time. Much of great polo for a horse is not so much about speed (although it is obviously very important), but about level headedness in the horse, confidence, a natural liking for the game, great training and conditioning and, last but not least, a skillful player on board. Let me know how it all goes. I thank you for your question.

Sincerely, Franklin

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