Siobhan Herbst, Polo Manager at Polo Wicklow in Ireland
What makes umpiring interesting ?
I think it is a very challenging task to umpire – you have to make instant decisions, some may be wrong but you still have to stand by them. It’s an interesting job because it is down to you how well the game flows and how well controlled it is. From the start you need to be strong in your decisions otherwise you lose control and then the games become dangerous – you have a very big responsibility when you are umpiring, there are 8 players on half a tonne of horse each – that you are in charge of.
Do you think it makes a difference that you are a woman ?
I don’t think players in Ireland see me as any different because I am a woman, in fact I have never come across anyone on the polo field who does. I think it can work to your advantage as in general men will behave slightly better when there is a woman around or so you hope!!
What are your views on the polo rules ?
When the no turning rule came in I thought it was great, it gave the lesser players, who may not have had skill and the fancy ponies that could turn so quick, a chance to compete with the ones who can dribble and turn the ball with their eyes closed. But bringing this rule in led to many facial injuries, I opened Facebook one day and 3 friends had broken noses, damages eyes or smashed teeth. All came from backhands so I started to change my mind. I think there needs to be an in between rule here that prevents those injuries yet still makes a more even playing field.
I also think the main thing that needs to be changed in safety helmet, polo is an expensive sport and many people risk their lives playing in poor helmets, some to save a few extra pounds as the safe ones are alot more expensive and some because the safe helmets look silly. If it was made compulsory then those image conscience people wouldn’t have any choice but to be safe and we would all look the same.
What are your best tactical tips ?
I think the most important tactic in polo is to use all your players to the best of their ability, many pro’s will try to play alone because they are the best players but the best player is the one than can get 150% from their team mates. you may have some that are great riders but poor with the ball – put them marking a good player from the opposition hard, the one who can carry the ball but not great at riding off – they go up front and score the goals. It’s all about putting each player in the best position for them so everyone contributes in their own way on the field.
What are the things that players should practice to improve themselves ?
There are so many bad riders on the polo field, I think it’s so important that they can ride well and handle their horse, if they keep pulling and tugging the horse will not give its’ best performance which means you cannot give yours. The horse is 80% of the game so if you can control that 80% the other 20% comes much easier.
Which training routines do you recommend ?
Riding everyday when possible, also stick and ball at least once or twice a week but when you go out to stick and ball give yourself a challenge/a spot you must try to hit, don’t just go out aimlessly and hit the ball – that’s not good and gives you bad habits, you want to practice your accuracy and control of the ball.
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