Polo is a high-energy sport demanding endurance, discipline and skill from your performance horse.

It requires polo ponies to accelerate and stop quickly over short bursts, executing great flexibility to perform twists and turns for the duration of a match which may last for up to two hours. 

It should go without saying that any such activity demands quite a deal of preparation and strategy.

Principles for keeping your polo pony fit, healthy and injury free

As you embark on the challenge of building your horse’s fitness, it is important to remember the fundamentals.

  1. Gradual progression: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises to allow the pony’s body to adapt and prevent injury.
  2. Flexibility and stretching: Regular stretching exercises for the legs and back can help prevent muscle soreness and injury. It’s important to include stretching before and after each ride.
  3. Core strength: Polo is a physically demanding sport and requires a lot of balance and stability. Strengthening the pony’s core muscles can help improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.
  4. Polo-specific exercises: Incorporating exercises that mimic the movements and demands of the sport, such as simulated chukkas and hitting the ball, can help prepare the pony for the specific demands of the game.
  5. Rest and recovery: It’s important to include rest days in the training program to allow the pony’s body to recover and prevent overtraining.
  6. Good nutrition and hydration: Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for maintaining a pony’s health and fitness. A well-balanced diet, adequate water intake, and access to clean and fresh pasture can help maintain a pony’s overall health.
  7. Regular veterinary check-ups: It’s important to have regular veterinary check-ups to ensure that the horse is healthy and to identify and treat any potential health issues early on.
  8. Proper shoeing: Polo ponies are subjected to a lot of stress on their legs and hooves. Proper shoeing and regular farrier check-ups are important to maintain their foot health and prevent injuries.

Preparation

Just as human athletes need a ‘pre-season’ to prepare for the rigours of a long an arduous campaign, so too do polo ponies.

That means some thought needs to go into any program designed to prepare your horse for the season and give it the best chance of maintaining fitness and avoiding injury.

Your pre-season should entail at least three months of work. The first two months is about slowly building up your pony’s fitness, while the final month can add flexibility drills and practice manoeuvres that will be required during matches.

Example pre-season program

It is important to consult an equine veterinarian and trainer about developing the right program around the unique aspects of your horse and your goals.

As an example, you could follow a similar template to the below each day to slowly build a polo pony’s fitness over 12 weeks. 

Week 1-3:

  • Light exercise: 15-20 minutes of walking and trotting on flat terrain, 3-4 times per week.
  • Stretching: 5-10 minutes of stretching exercises for the legs and back, before and after each ride.

Week 4-6:

  • Increase exercise time to 20-30 minutes of walking and trotting, 3-4 times per week.
  • Begin incorporating short intervals of cantering into the rides.
  • Continue with stretching exercises.

Week 7-9:

  • Increase exercise time to 30-40 minutes of walking, trotting, and cantering, 3-4 times per week.
  • Begin incorporating small jumps (cross-rails) into the rides.
  • Continue with stretching exercises.

Week 10-11:

  • Increase exercise time to 40-50 minutes of walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping, 3-4 times per week.
  • Begin incorporating small obstacles (such as cavaletti) into the rides.
  • Begin incorporating polo-specific exercises such as simulated chukkas and hitting the ball.
  • Continue with stretching exercises.

Week 12:

  • Increase exercise time to 60 minutes of polo-specific exercises, 3-4 times per week.
  • Introduce game situations and simulated match play.
  • Continue with stretching exercises.
  • Gradually decrease the intensity of the exercises as the pony approaches competition readiness.
  • Continue with stretching exercises.

Contact us today

Here at Newmarket Equine, we have accomplished veterinarians who can treat and offer advice about all types of horses, including significant experience working with polo ponies.

We provide a dedicated service to the polo sport in Australia with the practice having a long and proud history based around the excellence of our staff.

Our vets are experienced in all matters including medical, reproduction and quarantine procedures.

State-of-the-art equipment is provided including digital radiology, digital ultrasound, shock wave therapy, video endoscopy and IRAP processing. 


Contact us today to book an appointment.

The information contained on this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.

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