I am a keen horse rider, with 3 horses of my own which I keep at the Farm (well technically 2.5 horses as one is my very old, free range pony which I have had for nearly 14 years!). I have serious respect for all aspects of equestrianism, but my real love is Eventing and this is what I try to do with my horses. However this weekend I was persuaded by a good friend of mine to step away from the cross country field and have a go at Polo.
Polo is something that I have enjoyed watching and always wanted to try, and I have to say it did not disappoint!
We went to the Dallas Burston Polo Club in Warwickshire, a beautiful club with immaculately manicured polo pitches and a fantastic selection of gorgeous polo ponies (this was definitely not something to try with my own horses!). The horses are all highly trained, super athletic and experts at what they do, which was a good job considering our group of 4 consisted of one who had played polo previously, one who rides on a regular basis and 2 who had either ridden once or not ridden in years.
After a quick lesson in how to hold a polo mallet and the reins at the same time, something which I definitely struggled with, we were straight out on to the field. The horses, or should I say polo ponies were also very different to what I am personally used to, my horses are much taller and more muscly whereas as these little pocket rockets were much finer built and compact (speed and agility is the key in polo as opposed to strength and power in eventing). We spent most of the lesson learning how to hit the ball, something which is much harder than it sounds! Getting the swing correct, as well as putting you and your horse in the prime position (apparently a few feet away from the ball) and adapting to one handed steering most definitely requires a certain level of patience (from the horses!) and utmost concentration – and we were only practicing in walk! That said, after a few failed attempts at hitting the ball (I wasn’t even close to the floor so I had no chance!) and a few more at the one handed rein control I did start to get the hang of it. The feeling when I made the first reasonable hit was amazing, I mean I’m sure I looked like a complete novice to our lovely instructor and I’m even more sure that he thought my unnecessarily large grin was completely unwarranted, I had just hit a ball with a polo mallet on a ridiculously experienced polo pony..in walk. But the adrenaline rush was fantastic and I started to forget all about brush fences and open galloping fields…
After some much needed practice, we ended the lesson with a chukka (the name for the periods in which a polo match is split – usually there are 6 x 7.5mins chukkas in one game of polo). Everyone absolutely loved the experience, our competitive nature came out so we were really focused on winning the chukka, but we also had such a laugh trying to do these ponies justice..think of them as world cup final football players dealing with a Saturday afternoon 5-a-side standard! We reluctantly came off the pitch with the biggest smiles on our faces, already planning the next polo date!
Fancy a go?
I would urge anyone to have a go at polo, it doesn’t matter about your level of experience with horses, although I would say that having at least some previous riding experience would definitely enable you to get the most out of the lesson.
There are lots of polo grounds up and down the country, all cater for a range of experiences and all are keen to introduce new people to the sport. That said, if you are not a keen horse rider or don’t feel as though its something you would personally enjoy, go and watch a match. There is a massive social side to polo and now is the perfect time to get involved as the summer grass season has just kicked off. What better way to spend a weekend than watching these fantastically athletic machines thunder around a perfectly manicured grass field with a glass of pimms and a picnic? It’s also a great opportunity to get some friends together and get dressed up – a perfect alternative to a day at the races!