It can be daunting looking after a living being, especially if it’s your first. While she’s naturally a horse lover and had training back when she worked as a groom during her backpacking days in Australia, it can still prove to be quite challenging. But it’s thanks to her background, as well as love and passion, that helped her and her horse Brava overcome tough times.
It was spring of 2021 when they met, and it had been quite eventful for both of them since. Everyday is fun and memorable, and Ria admits that it’s a learning experience everyday. “It’s been a lot of fun getting to know Brava and I hope he feels the same about me,” she gushes. Brava’s personality is dynamic—he’s sociable with fellow horses (“He loves to flirt with mares!” says Ria.) but lets them know he’s in charge; he also adapts well with humans—a respectful and easy to handle one, at that!
When it comes to playing games, the lady player expresses how their partnership works so fine. “He’s very consistent and forgiving. As a newer player, I’m practicing all kinds of swings, but he takes me right to the ball and lets me try over and over. When I get a good shot, he watches the ball and runs towards it, so he knows the game well! When we’re playing chukkers, he’s never afraid of other horses,” she shares. “Overall, Brava is confident, powerful, and fast.. very fast!”
While they share a lot of exciting times, a major hurdle came a little after a year of being together. Last March, the horse got his hind legs caught up in the electric fencing, which resulted in a severe injury to his right hind leg and some soft tissue injuries on the left. Thankfully, he did not break his bones and there was no damage to his suspensory ligaments. He underwent a thorough examination and had to take a five-week stall rest.
“I initially thought that this could end his polo career, or perhaps he would never be rideable ever again,” the owner worries. However, instead of feeling down, Ria is determined to bring Brava back up. “Even though this injury could have taken a very bad turn for the worst, I really focused on what was best for Brava, and wanted to be realistic about the outcomes of this injury. I stopped thinking about polo and riding for those five weeks when there really were no answers as to which direction this would go.”
Instead of searching for answers elsewhere, the polo player knows that she only needs to look in one direction—towards Brava. “Although he couldn’t tell me in words, I watched his body language and how he engaged with me, with the other horses and his environment,” she tells POLO LADY. “He ‘told’ me what he needed, I listened to him, and let him lead the way. He got stronger every day, and the look in his eye told me he had the drive to get through this.”
Ria also notes that during this time, she didn’t push any goals on her horse, apart from making sure he was comfortable and pain-free. They took Brava’s rehabilitation slowly, and once he was cleared to move again, the horse owner applied her knowledge as registered massage therapist and her previous injury experience to help treat her four-legged buddy. And of course, she read a lot of literature as well!
“A few months later, Brava was completely back to normal. I started incorporating sets into our week to bring his cardio up, and by July, I was able to stick and ball and play in slow/green chukkers with him,” she happily reports. “Now, he’s living his best life—he’s happy and it’s like nothing happened!”
Brava’s recovery is hyped further as the two of them went on their first polo game together, and Ria couldn’t help but feel proud of her horse. Following the match, the polo player wrote an inspiring post on social media, sharing their drawbacks a few months ago and how happy and proud she is of the horse’s determination and strength.
“It was a milestone for me and for us that signified he had truly recovered from the injury and we were both ready to move into the next phase of our partnership,” she recalls. “It was also such a meaningful moment for me because I was playing polo on my very own horse. Two things I never thought I’d ever do: play polo and play on my ‘own horse’.”
If there’s any takeaway from this experience, it’s the realization that, “I have a horse not because I want to play polo, but because I want to have a partnership and bond with a horse—who first and foremost is a member of my family. Working in health care helps me to keep things in perspective, and I wanted to make sure that I always kept Brava’s quality of life at the forefront of my decisions.”
She adds, “Being realistic was also a really important way to guide us through that time, and understanding that there is a chance that Brava might never play polo ever again. The second thing I took away from this is to always have a good amount of savings for horse emergencies!”
And to fellow horse moms like her, Ria advises that quality time spent with your string holds the utmost importance. “It’s not necessarily just to stick and ball or to play chukkers,” she points out. “Horses bond with each other by grooming, so that’s one way he knows we are partners and can build a bond. Doing different things when riding is also really important to build a rapport with each other.”
If you’re at a loss on where to start building that, the polo player shares her go-to practices. “Going for hacks and riding bareback are great ways to build trust with your horse, and two of my favorite ways to spend time with Brava!” she ends.