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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Torture Device Tuesday

A reader sent me this photo, I was appalled at the amount of headgear on this horse. He is wearing a drop noseband with a rope nosepiece, a gag, draw reins, a standing martingale, and check out the blood on his mouth! Geesh, overkill much? I understand Polo ponies are hot, but do you really need to bloody their mouth to control them? Also, that noseband looks perilously close to cutting off his air.


  1. Well.... at least he gag has two reins....

    I've never understood the need for all on the gear in polo. I know they neck rein for the most part but sheesh. And surely a horse with an unrestricted neck is better able to make tight turns! I asked a polo player once what the deal was and she said usually (esp amoung the men) it's just "the done thing." She played in a pelham (2 reins) and a standing martingale incidently)

    I carriage drive but the thought of cleaning all that....

  2. Yeah there's two reins on the gag bit, but the second looks kinda like draw reins so is that really any better?

  3. Jeeez... this guy takes the award for "Most Shit"

    Does he not get "That" much tack is all interfering with purpose of the other tack he has on... That poor horse doesn't know if he's "Coming" or "Going"... Too many signals, too much crap!

  4. Polo ponies are not hot they are just generally poorly trained. I worked on a polo farm for a while and I am sure there are good places but this was not. I am afraid that the place I worked was more of the norm then not. From what I saw of the other teams that played with ours. It was not that they were hot it was that the players did not want to spend much time training. Therefore most thought if you just put more gear on then the ponies would "just do it" and not have to spend the time training. Needless to say I got fed up and left.

  5. "Because that is the done thing" is absolutely no excuse for all the unnecessary gear. Yeah, the bloody mouth was the first thing I noticed when I saw the picture. No excuse for that whatsoever. Poor pony.

    I find that in almost every discipline bottoom feeding "trainers" take shortcuts, some of them very abusive. I was riding with a lady who competes in cutting. She was telling me about some of the "training" techniques that some of the trainers she knows use. Things like breast collars with nails poked through them and then manipulated (jerked up so nails poke or puncture the horse) to "make the horse stop". Another "trainer" only fed hay once a day because he didn't have time to hay all the horses in the moring. They got a big pail of pellets in the am, another one in the pm and then some alfalfa. Her horse ended up with ulcers, not suprisingly. I gotta say that I wouldn't send my horse to a "trainer" that didn't even understand the feeding requirements of the species he was "training". He defended his "feeding program" saying that he's been feeding horses like that for years and never had a problem. Yeah, he never paid the vet bills, his clients did so I guess that means no problem for him.

    Sorry, I know OT but I couldn't help but rant.

  6. Okay, I'm a polo player and I think that there is a lot of misinformation. To the above poster - NO, not all polo ponies are poorly trained. In fact, I would say they are better trained than most horses I know. They all know how to direct and neck rein - they all know flying changes (auto changes at that) - they all have GREAT brakes - all of them can do perfect rollbacks - they all WTC on command - some of them even can cross train (we had ponies that in the off season were hunt horses). So please - they are NOT untrained.

    Secondly - the gear on that horse above is NOT cruel in any way shape or form. Of course - let me add that any gear can be horrific if used wrong - but most polo players know what they are doing. Yes, we do ride in gag bits. Most horses have two sets of reins - one straight and one pair of draw reins that attach to the saddle billets. This is to give addded control when galloping and stopping. Additionally, we do ride in tie downs - can you imagine what would happen if a horse threw his head up when stopping and turning? It would break the polo players nose. And we use a drop noseband, so that the horses cannot evade the bit when playing. All together - yes - a lot fo equitment - but it all has it's place for the game we play.

    What I DO NOT LIKE about the above picture is the blood. Some polo players have nice hands and try not to yank on their horses mouths. I don't like that this rider has bloodied his pony's mouth. He sucks.

  7. IF the horse were trained. it would a) NOT "throw up its head when stopping and turning" and b) NOT need "added control when galloping and stopping"...sighhh a well trained horse can stop, turn, go, etc with leg and seat aids, maybe a touch on a rein if needed...they do not need tie downs cause they will not toss their head up (tossing heads often come from yanking on the bit...the rider deserves to get nailed in the nose at that point) and they do not need gag bits with draw reins for added control... but whatever...

  8. WTF??? I'm running out and hiding all my horses from anyone who even wears the cologne, POLO.........

  9. "IF the horse were trained. it would a) NOT "throw up its head when stopping and turning" and b) NOT need "added control when galloping and stopping"...sighhh a well trained horse can stop, turn, go, etc with leg and seat aids, maybe a touch on a rein if needed...they do not need tie downs cause they will not toss their head up (tossing heads often come from yanking on the bit...the rider deserves to get nailed in the nose at that point) and they do not need gag bits with draw reins for added control... but whatever..."

    And when practicing, these posies will not throw up their head, they will stop on a sixpence, spin and go in the opposite direction with barely a movement from the rider. I have seen many a 'rider' come off a polo pony becuase the horse has been too sharp when ridden with the aids that would suit a regular horse/rider just fine. Ironically a total novice does better on the ponies because they have no preconception of how it 'should be done'.

    However - put the same pony into a chukka and the adrenaline gets going and the thrill of the chase takes over. No different to any other high-adrenaline horse sport!

    BUT, the blood is not good and like with everything there are bad examples in any discipline and this is one of them *sigh*

  10. Alyisha - have you ever ridden a polo pony? You have to remember that this is a totally different discipline than H/J or Dressage. I showed "A" show hunters before I took up polo and I know just how different the seats/training methods are.

    Honestly - any horse that is going that fast and being asked to turn on a dime is going to throw up it's head - it's called balance. We use tie downs the same way many western riders use them - they give the horse a balance point when doing quick turns. It does not mean the ponies are untrained. Secondly, some horses do not need a gag, but most of us use them because it's a safety issue. We cannot take the chance of having our horses out of control on the field - it would cause catostrophic injuries to both horse and rider if they were out of control.

    Also - I encourage people to youtube high goal professional polo players. See how fast those horses go and see how much skill it takes. I can garentee that those horses get as good or better training and care than most horses. They have to be at the peak and get trated as such! Most polo players would never seek any harm to their ponies - they are simply worth too much money!

  11. Wow. Too much - way too much - on that horse. Just because it has "always" been done that way certainly does not make it right.

  12. Um...... how come in other disciplines a non-tied-down horse doesn't break his rider's nose when he stops?

    And if he's trying to balance by throwing up his head, then why the HELL would you tie it down - so that he can LOSE his balance?


    Western riders who use tiedowns are generally looked down upon.

    If you can't use your seat to help stop/turn a horse, and you're relying THAT MUCH on your hands, then you're not much of a rider. I'd think a good player would be a good horseman FIRST, THEN a good player.

    If it means hurting horses so that they won't "go out of control," then this isn't fucking worth it. Use dirtbikes instead. That is NOT a happy horse.

    I call BS.

  13. Yeah... I call BS also.

    Because this horse certainly looks happy and well trained:


    YEAH RIGHT.... I call those tight reins and wide eyes pain and fear.

    As well as this one:

    That rider also gets the award for FUGLY pepto pink bottomed saddle, boots, and his attire.

  14. Until you've played polo, it's hard to comment on the tack.

    But that goes for EVERY seat out there. How can anyone sit behind a computer screen and bash a sport they've never even attempted? Oh, how keyboards give some people balls. It's amazing.

    Many polo ponies are treated like royalty. Some polo ponies are viewed as machines, and are discarded from the line as such, when their playing skills wane with age and stress.

    There is good and bad in all equine communities.

    The only real problem I have with polo is seeing some of these ponies in side reins during play. And that is because many of the side-rein'd ponies I've seen have sacks of potatoes on their backs!

  15. is just as easy to pull awkward-moment, or even inappropriate, photos from another horse sport out there. HJ, Eventing, Dressage, Reining, give me a sport and I will find you a copious amount of equally "horrifying" photos. Be careful with Pandora's Box!

  16. Thank you "Ohmyantlers" - you are spot on.

    Before you knock polo as some torturous game - go out and watch your local polo club. Even better, get a lesson and then you'll understand why we do things the way we do.

    And cattypex: just FYI - western riders (esp. gamers) who use tie downs are NOT looked down upon. Give me a break. Have you ever seen Martha Josey ride and win barrels ?????

  17. I think this whole thing is funny. Not funny haha. How on the defense everyone becomes when someone talks about their sport. But will join in the attack of another. I don't just mean today, but everyday. I read this blog's the same thing. Maybe we should be using this blog to educate and learn instead of bashing.

  18. 3daystar.... well, *I* certainly have nothing good to say about gamers who rely on tiedowns to "balance" their horses. That's silly!

    Do hunters & jumpers use martingales to balance around turns?

    If you have to use ALL that stuff to get your horse to submit, then you're doing things wrong.

  19. Well-said cattypex.

    I am a horse person myself, I have been for 20+ years. I've shown in many disciplines on many different breeds, western, english, bareback jumping, hunt-seat jumping, and dressage, and I have never once had to had to use that much (what I consider) 'severity' on any horse I have ever ridden.

    All I am trying to imply is that if you need that much hardware in your horse's body to make it 'behave' properly than you are doing something wrong.

    I've been to the races, I've been to polo matches. And when I see animals throwing up their heads with bloody mouths and wide-eyes I feel I am seeing something inhumane.

    Of course there are people in all equine sports who love their horses and treat them like a partner and family member. But the truth is, there are many more aspects of training as people say, that are overkill and overdone.

    No animal deserves to have it's body bound and tormented to make it 'balance' better or 'behave' properly.

    I agree with those who posted before me, if you require that much equipment to make a horse gallop, stop, and turn for the most part, your horse has not been trained properly.

  20. It is amazingly EASY to take ONE photo and decide you've seen all you need to know. NONE of us have any idea why the horse's mouth is bloody. He could have bitten his cheek or something.

    I don't play, as i can't hit the darn ball to save my life. But i have groomed polo and you REALLY don't understand the game until you've experienced it.

    SOme of them DO need that much tack, some just go in a pelham. They DO stop and turn and such with less, but the game isn't exactly predictable, so yess, the "hardware" is needed.

    I rode a pony that needed a good gallop as part of her warm up. It was my cheap thrill for the week, going entirely too fast for a couple of minutes on a Saturday. Two laps around the field on each lead. She went in similar gear, but I think I could have done my warm up with a shoelace in her mouth. But only to gallop. No darn way I'd attempt to play her in any less. This isn't a hack in the country or a patterned race around a couple of barrels. There are several other moving targets surrounding you AND that darn ball too.

    The noseband is fine, both of them. The drop is adjusted like ANY OTHER drop, and it really isn't that tight. IF it was "too tight" or capable of cutting his wind, he wouldn't be able to open his mouth at all, which he clearly can.

    Polo ponies are treated like KINGS. I'd be plenty happy to come back as a pony.

    Why not try the game and report back?

  21. Google cut me off or I did something wrong.

    Like I said, try it first. Don't judge something off of ONE photo of ONE moment in time. This is just as judgemental as the post about the standardbreds. GO to the track or the polo field. Heck, I think the bloger is many states away, but I can happily talk polo or stb racing IN PERSON to anyone who lives in the NJ area. Time is running out on watching polo, as the club closest to me calls it quits in October. But the tracks will still be open, and I LOOVE slipping into the paddock... (oops, did I say that?)

    Honestly, I like this blog better when it's just about ugly pink saddles.

  22. I've ridden polo ponies, and they were very well trained. They did have a lot of go. They did have a lot of equipment, but they didn't need to be handled that much. This is just a situation where there was probably a bad rider.

  23. I board my horses at a barn that is also the home of the local polo team. Those horses are some of the best trained, best cared-for, most fit horses on the entire property -- and the rest of the boarders aren't slackers either. Yes there's a lot of tack (actually, some of them **exactly** like this one.) Tiedowns, running reins, gag bits, and all.

    They can rollback as well as the best reiners. They can collect, they can extend, they can run like the wind. The polo ponies are started and trained by excellent horsemen, truly some of the best. I cannot explain the tack, but I'm sure they could.

    But their mouths aren't ripped up. That's a bad moment, a bad rider, or who knows what. That's not a reflection on polo.

  24. I'm curious to know when Dressage is going to get it's spotlight on this blog. Or do ache-inducing crank nosebands and double bridles with the curb rein tightened beyond belief pass the test on "humane?"

    What about the H/J world? Do you know how many times I've seen horses in that world with bloody mouths from their cute little double-twisted wire snaffles? Not to mention those with neck problems on the skeletal level due to draw rein usage.

    But I guess those horses are under control because they sell that tack in Dover, and they show pictures of famous horses wearing it, so I guess it's okay.

  25. I don't think it's humane for double bridles or twisted snaffles either.

    And I also think that those crank nosebands should be banned. I hate seeing horses so bent over the verticle by reins so tight that they are frothing out the mouth excessively and their chins are damn-near touching their chests.

    All of my horses have been ridden in a tri-jointed snaffle bit. I've never used anything harsher. I didn't want to tear my horses mouths up.

    And tie-downs on jumpers... I'll never understand that. Lets tie my horses' heads down that need to throw them up to jump effectively.


    There really is bad and good in all disciplines.

  26. Nothing wrong with martingales on jumpers. It's physics. The properly adjusted tie-down (aka standing martingale) is fastened to the breastcollar or the girth. It comes into effect when then head is raised in such a way as to lengthen the line between nose and the fixed point (breastcollar or girth). The arch of the neck when jumping makes this a shorter line, so the tie-down is slack over the fence if the horse jumps in a low round hunter-type bascule. If the horse is throwing it's head to jump, it's doesn't need to be jumping. Jumping comes from the back end, not the weight of the head!

    But back to the photo, yeah sucks to be that poor polo pony. But I could find equally egregious examples in every other sport. The rider is the problem in that photo, not the tack. Anyone who bloodies the horses mouth not a horseman!

  27. I am not talking about martingales. I am talking about tie downs. I have no issues with running or standing martingales if used properly.

    Back to the photo... NO ANIMAL should 'NEED' that much shit on its head to gallop, stop, roll back, and turn.

    I watch the reiners at the local arena all the time and I've never seen half of that shit on their horses' heads and I've never seen one come away, even after cutting and reining workouts with a bloody mouth.

  28. If you google "STANDARD" Polo Bridle... You get EXACTLY what that horse in the photo is wearing.

    Here is a picture of their horses wearing 'standard' polo tack:

    So apparently the overkill is standard...


  29. Raven: Until you play polo, please don't comment on what our ponies need and don't need. Polo is not reining. Reining is peanuts compared to the speed, agility, and saftey you need to play polo. I don't think you have horses running into you and trying to ride you off a ball when you rein.

    Honestly, yes - this equipment is standard. If you don't like it, then don't play polo. But please refrain from commenting on how it isn't "necessary" until you try the sport. Our ponies could probably go in a whole lot less, if the sport wasn't so dangerous. But because it is, we prefer to treat our ponies the best. This means we look out for our riders/teammates safety and our ponies. This means control at all times and yes..standing martingales and breastplates at all times. It's not overkill if it may save you or your horse's life.

    However, like most of us have states, a bloody mouth is not acceptable in any discipline.

  30. Becca... If you loved your ponies so much you wouldn't force it to compete in a sport that you yourself deem 'so dangerous'.

  31. Um, who uses TIE DOWNS on a jumper?

    That would, like, uh, not work... I'd like to see a photo...

    Standing martingales are ONLY allowed at the lower levels. The determination is based on the prize money offered, but that is by definition the lower level classes that generally don't exceed 3'6". Since hunters do jump up to 4 foot at shows, with a standing on, it's hardly a problem.

    If you refer to your standing martingale as a tie down, you are probably doing something wrong any way.

    running martingales DO allow for more flexibility.

    Link for some dreadful polo players who obviously *hate* thier ponies: Third horse down on home page... When that pony took a funny step at a GAME, that horrible person LEPT from that pony just to check her.

    Gosh, and see how they are ALL just yanking and cranking on those poor ponies?? (not)

    Raven. do you need a ladder? that horse of yours seems rather tall.

    You go right on and try to "force" a polo pony to do anything. Or any other horse for that matter. Becca and I will be here waiting on the report.

    Polo isn't even CLOSE to reining. *maybe* cutting.

    Bloody mouths are not acceptable. But seeing is how NONE of us were there, exactly how do we know how that transpired? It's too easy to assume abuse.

  32. I have never seen polo played, although i would love to.
    there is a MAJOR safety issue with polo though. a polo pony may toss it's head once in a while during a rough stop ( we can't all be perfect ALL the time people...), but on the off chance that they could injure their rider, or someone else I can see where the equipment is needed. i don't think we are talking about that same lines as crank nosebands, or poor training. i've seen many a "famous" jumper motorcycle around and arena while being yanked on, or bucking out of a jump... horses have minds of their own. the best trained horse can and do act out at times. if you are playing a sport that requires speed, agility, and a lot of damn people on horses galloping around with weapons in their hands, i could see where a laps in behavior even once could be a BIG problem.
    this rider may be a bad rider, the horse may have had a bad day, he could have bit his lip or tongue. this is one static moment in time, no details givin.
    it looks like a lot, it is alot, but you could pile every piece of tack on a horse everytime you rode, and as long as you were fair, the horse would certainly not mind, a good face scratch after might be in order though, all that stuff looks itchy!:)

  33. I've worked as a polo groom, and the issue is not that these horses need all that gear to be ridden, its that in the heat of a game/chukka they need it for their safety and the player's. A horse that plays like that often times can easily be worked in a pellham on a slacked rein. I used to do sets of 4 (1 ride horse 3 pony horses)w/t/c around a track on a with a rubber pelham and hardly ever use my reins it was almost all off the seat and legs; the same horse went in the "typical" polo gear for a game. This is by no means a case of bad tack, but a case of a poor rider.

  34. Seriously...poor horse!! The horse is being told to do a million different things with just one pull...gag bits pick a horse head up...draw reins do the opposite and a tie down....WOW!!!! What a jacka$$

  35. All of that tack is pretty standard for a polo pony...

    Breastcollar keeps the saddle in place. When the rider is tossing their weight around, leaning this way or that to make a shot on the ball, even the most well fitting saddle can get yanked out of place.

    The horses are supposed to be ridden off the draw rein (held at the top of your hand) and the gag/straight rein has more slack in it and only comes into play if the horse gets carried away and doesn't stop. You can't do as much riding off your seat as you can in other disciplines simply because you're not IN your seat as much. A well trained polo pony merely requires a small movement of the hand to stop/slow/turn. You shouldn't have to haul on their face. Yes, some riders abuse their horse's mouth, but I can find you examples of that in EVERY discipline.

    The horses use the tie downs to brace against when stopping and turning. Most could go without them, but its generally an added advantage to the horse to use them. I don't see why this is a negative. Also, they keep the pony from bashing its rider in the face whether deliberately or not. You play most of the game standing in the stirrups in crazy, awkward positions hanging off the front/side/back of your horse. You're not just sitting upright with 100% of your focus on your horse. You're watching the man you're covering. You're watching the ball. You're concentrating on the guy next to you who is trying to bump (literally shove your horse with his) your horse off the line. You're watching the idiot swinging his mallet *just a little too close* for comfort to you/your horse. Oh, and you're balancing on the back of your horse who is typically running full out. Horses throw their heads for all kinds of reasons - not just because someone yanked their mouth. Stray mallets, slipping, etc.

    I haven't a clue why this guy's been so rough with that horse's mouth that he managed to bloody it - that should NOT happen. ANY bit in the wrong hands can be a torture device if the rider is an idiot. I've seen a horse with a mild Myler comfort bit with bloody mouth - you yank on even one of those enough and you'll do some damage.

  36. As a polo umpire, I would dismiss that horse from the field because of the blood. In the 20 years I have played and the 10 years I have been an umpire, I have only seen three horses dismissed due to blood (it can be any place on the horse and it will be dismissed) and I myself have only dismissed one horse personally. That rider thought his horses were fuzzy motorcycles and was not a horseman at all. I play as well and I put my horses in their playing bridles-gag bits and draw reins. They play mostly off my seat and legs, but when those bridles are on, they know it is game time. I have never had to force a horse to play. All of my horses are exercised in a snaffle or a halter, but a game is a game and they know it. One of my mares can be umpired on in a plain snaffle and she is a total dog. But as soon as I pick up a mallet, game on. The properly fitted drop nose band holds the gag bit in the proper place in the horse's mouth. The gag rein give the horse light signals in combination with the direct rein. The horse can balance on the martingale in hard stops and turns. Just because there is a lot of leather doesn't mean it doesn't serve a purpose-doesn't weigh as much as a western saddle, ect.

  37. I've played polo with the community group the past two winters. Thos horses love to play, despite everything. Half the mares there play th game for you, taking you to the ball and pushing the other horses around. Besides, for what other discipline are the bitchy chestnut mares good for? :) (And yes, I evented one this summer, so I am no biased) Just saying that the barn I play with has the biggest probortion of chestnut mares that I have ever seen. Lol.

    Coming from the eventing world I thought the equipment was a bit much as well, but its there just in case you need it. Not all ponis have drop nosebands, some just use a caveson with standing martingale. Never once in the times that I have played have I seen one of the horses with a bloody mouth. In fact, all the ponies there are trained by an extremely talented player who, by birth deffect, has no fingers on his left hand, which is the one that we use to hold the reins.

    As a side note: draw reins in polo are not used to pull the horses head down like the are in the H/J world. They are there to keep the horse straight, so as he is turning on a dime to go after the ball his head and neck are not suddenly in the way of someone swinging the mallet.

    And if you look at the picture again, dspite the blood, the horse looks happy, and all of the equipment is slack. The reins are not yanking on the bit, nore is the martingale pulling his head down.

    Polo is a really fun sport, if you would give it half a chance and understand the why's of what is going on, you might find that you agree with me.

  38. Horse riding is a sin which is about forcing the horse to do what it does not want in fact. Is there any of the horse riders who would try those devices... Anyone?