Also referred to as rhythm of the horse
The elements we manage that connect us to a horse once we get on are known as aids; they are precisely how we order a horse to carry out different movements. Certain aids are used to let the horse known when to run faster or slower, depending on our needs.
Along with aids such as impulsion or containment, rate or rhythm is established. The aid of impulsion relies on legs and feet, our body weight, our position in the saddle, and our hands, which lessen pressure on the reigns and bit in the horse’s mouth.
The aid of contention relies on our hands applying pressure on the reins, which work the bit in the mouth. Our body weight in the saddle is also important here, as are, to a lesser degree, our legs (the upper leg works in this case). The rider must work together with the horse to achieve the desired speed. A good and experienced horse will be the one that achieves the desired rhythm quicker and with less difficulty.
Learning to manage the rate takes the horse considerable time. The correct rate is fundamental for you and your horse in any competition where energy is exerted and anticipation and contact are necessary. “Superior” horses move during the game expressing our needs and vision through our corporal expression (automatic reflexes). Aids such as impulsion and contention become imperceptible and it is here where their ability to gradually increase or decrease speed becomes manifest, and we can achieve our desired speed.
Rate in a polo horse is an incredibly valuable quality, since it relates to temperament, sensibility, balance, action, immediate reaction, correction and speed. Therefore, owing to their rate, we have horses “in the palm of our hand” (in the reins). These ideal horse await orders and react quickly and gradually.
At the same time, we find horses what do not respond as well to the bit and need to be contained; they are the ones that want to run. They are hard to manage and can be exhausting to play.
Lastly, we have horses that need an extra push to get going. They need artificial aids, such as a whip or spurs. Having a horse with good rhythm gives a player security and is a pleasure to ride.