For the love of the Horse or the Sport?
|December 4, 2021||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Let me tell you what it’s like to *play polo.
*As someone that plays very badly but has been lent an excellent polo pony to play for the night. But it’s OK that I play like a rated minus 10 player, because I’ve been doing this for less than 4 weeks. How do I know it has been less than 4 weeks? Because Fig broke her arm on a trail ride 3 1/2 weeks ago and that was the day I decided polo sounded really fun again.
Warm up, deep breaths. One lap at a trot around the arena. Get out of my calf, and get out of the saddle. This isn’t dressage. Review the key concepts in my head. Breathe, keep my head down, point my shoulder where I want the ball to go, straight arm follow through. Never think about these concepts again for the rest of the game.
Also, this isn’t endurance so never trot again after that first lap. Canter, post, 2-point. Learn later that husband in stands (first time he’s seen me ride for probably 5+ years) thinks I looked exceptionally stupid and awkward doing that “up and down thing” at a canter. But “once you were chasing the ball like a demented Labrador Retriever you looked ok.”
Ball, ball, ball, WHERE’S THE BALL????? There’s the ball, GO MARE GO….damn I don’t even have to steer her, just point her at the ball.*** Galloping towards the ball as fast as I can*** Walk-trot chukker? Ummm….. HAHAHAHAHA THIS IS SO MUCH FUUUUNNNNNNNN.
…CRAP TOO FAST….easy easy easy mare, let me hit the ball. Swing at ball with stick thing and….well…missed the ball would be a kind way to describe the mess of that shot.
Mare thinks I’m stupid.
Mare unhappy that I obviously do not know how to play. She did her job. Obviously expects that if she delivers a ball to me, I should hit the ball.
Turn damn quick, remember you have leg aids- not just a hand – find the line, find the ball. Other team has ball, time to go on defense. Gallop up to other rider. He’s riding a good horse, but a little one. I know I can take her and the mare does too. Leg against leg, horse against horse and SIDE PASS into that good little polo pony and ruin his shot, run over the top of the ball. No play. Still, theoretically I have 2 other team mates behind me ready to pick that ball up.
But we are all beginners except for the team captain who is not allowed to score, just keep the ball and game rolling so it’s a clusterf*ck so we mill around for a while, grossly fouling each other while the student umpires try to decide where they draw the line.
I have the ball. “GET IT OUT OF HERE” screams my team captain and so I whack the ball and tap it forward 3 inches. The mare is not amused but now there is a twist. I’ve managed to tangle my mallet up in the breast plate of an opponents horse. Damn damn damn, but I get it free before I’m pulled backwards out of the saddle.
WHERE’S THE BALL????? But now the kid with the rodeo background dives in and grabs it and knocks it into the goal. ARRRGGHHHHH. Pant pant pant pant. Apple watch buzzing, “do you want to start a workout?”
Do I love horses or the sport I do with horses (whatever sport that happens to be the current obsession)?
It’s taken me a while, but what I’ve learned is the answer to that question is neither.
What I really love is a horse that demands to do its job well. Who is driven by a passion for the sport that matches my passion for whatever job we are trying to do.
It’s why Farley and did so well together doing endurance. We “get” each other and we both felt the same drive to get down the trail, 100 miles at a time. Over the years we’ve argued and nagged at each other and had differences of opinion of the *best* way to do endurance….but damn we were a good team.
I’ve ridden a few really good polo ponies in the last couple weeks and they all have *that* feeling that I used to get with Farley during 100 miles.
I’ve missed that feeling. And I didn’t think that I would find what I loved in endurance in the game of polo.
For the record, Endurance prepared me poorly for polo. They are two VASTLY different sports.
Let’s look at the two games.
Endurance = trotting in straight-ish lines for hours and hours efficiently and playing the long game so we get to the finish line sound physically and metabolically on a single horse.
Polo = canter and gallop as fast as you can while making fast tight turns constantly. You have 7 1/2 minutes (in arena or indoor polo) and then there’s another pony to ride.
But there’s a really important *similarity.
When Akeeva demanded that she allowed to play the game I recognized I had a choice.
Micromanage one of the best polo horses my coach has, or trust this mare to play the game.
It was a familiar choice from my endurance days. Yes, you have to be a leader in the horse-rider relationship, but it’s also a relationship.
I can’t tell you how often Farley saved my ass on the trail.
I can’t tell you how many times Akeeva set me up to really nail a shot (that I missed of course).
For me the joy of riding isn’t the horse or any sport alone. It’s where it all comes together, creating something that is far more than simply the sum of the parts. A horse and a rider, united in purpose.
*There’s another similarity between the sports. PRETTY COLORS.
I absolutely did not stay up until 11:30 am post tournament and then wake up at 4:30a the next morning working on my perfect helmet design……..