In our last blog, we discussed the benefits of hiring grooms and pros to ride your ponies, especially if you have more than one. These folks can be especially helpful when it’s time for spring reconditioning after a winter off, or if you have a training problem.
And frankly, more than one horse can get overwhelming for the average Joe to exercise and care for regularly. At the DPC, we do our best to keep costs low for these services.
But what about other people? Should you let just anyone ride your ponies? It’s your decision, but our answer would be a resounding NO.
The first group of alternate riders you might consider is other polo club members. This requires some discretion, because people ride at different levels so you probably don’t want to let a beginner on that well-oiled machine of a pony you’ve worked hard to develop … or a green pony that might cause injury.
On the other hand, if someone’s a competent rider and happens to be out a horse, it could be a good fit! Instead of paying a groom or a pro to ride, your horse gets exercised for free and the other member gets to play! Win-win.
Lastly, there’s another group to consider: The random folks who find out you have a horse and inevitably ask: “Cool! Can I ride her?”
This group is the one with which to be most careful. Remember that polo ponies might be bombproof on the field, but they are not old-plug trail horses.
Again, use your discretion. It’s one thing to put an experienced, fit rider up there to have some fun. Or a kid who’s absolutely beside herself with joy just being led around on horseback. (Obviously, be careful with kids and make sure you’re in a safe environment—but many horses instinctually take better care of children than they do adults.)
It’s another thing entirely to subject your equine teammate to the unpracticed seat of your best-friend’s-cousin’s-overweight-dad-who’s-only-been-on-a-horse-once-in-his-life-but-thinks-he’s-an-expert (and is wearing shorts with cowboy boots). Unless your horse is a saint, she’s likely to find that arrangement objectionable and then you’re just asking for trouble.
Regardless of who besides you—if anyone—rides your pony, make sure they wear a helmet and that they’ve sign a liability waiver. (We have those in the Cottonwood office if you need one.) Horses are live creatures with minds of their own, and stuff happens. Even the calmest, most bulletproof polo ponies can spook or misbehave—and with an unfamiliar rider the risk of that happening goes up.
Ultimately, who rides your horse is up to you. But we hope this helps you know what to say the next time someone asks!