No Bucking Way Tries: POLO

I think I have found my calling in life. Last summer I put on my brave pants, bit the bullet and gave Polo lessons a go.

A few friends of mine worked in The Polo club and ever since they began to bring me along to Polo matches in Wicklow, I gained a rather soft spot for the sport… who cannot fall in love with a polo pony?!

Keep scrolling to find out all about my Polo journey…


About Polo

A quick explanation about a game of Polo – the game consists of six periods called chukkers. They last seven and a half minutes with each including a halftime period also.

Each team has four players who in turn can bring/swap between 6-8 horses per game. Players usually change horses either in between chukkers or halfway between chukkers depending on how tired the horses get.

Now Let’s get into more detail from the ins & outs of my lesson. Polo is quite technical but once shown its quite hard not to forget.

My instructor on the day was Leo, he is an Argentinian Polo Rider, what an absolute talent. Playing off a handicap of 2, (I know right a handicap? Could this be golf on horseback?) Leo has experience playing all over the world.

The most important thing he shared with me was that you don’t need any riding experience to start Polo, great for any newcomers out there reading this, or anyone who has always wanted to give it a go! With me having the experience, being able to ride a horse that is, it made a huge difference to our lesson, it made things easier for Leo it meant he could teach me how to play polo & not focus on the basics of riding a horse.

IMG_1691

Holding The Reins Correctly

In polo, they ride using the western way of riding. You always hold your reins with your left hand, and the polo Mallet in your right hand.

How to Hold the Reins Correctly:

  • You Hold your left palm out flat
  • Place both reins on top and close your hand around them
  • Use your index finger between both reins to shorten & lengthen your reins for control

It takes some getting used to, but after a while it becomes second nature.

In The Saddle Polo Tips

I could not get over how reactive the horse was at first. Steering was done through the reins, & not through a contact with the horses mouth. Using the reins, leaning them up against the horses neck to steer in the direction you want to go.

The horses were so reactive to the movement of my body, I did spent a good 10 minutes playing around with this novelty!

To stop, you simply lift both reins up and sit back in the saddle. The horses reactions were almost immediate, it was very refreshing. Do prepare yourself though I bolted forward a few times – when you want them to stop they literally stop!

GRIP WITH YOUR KNEES! Something Leo constantly had to keep reminding me to do. The idea of this was to hold yourself in place to give you the freedom to move your body around in order to tackle players during a game. Your lower leg should also hang free & loose giving it the freedom to swing back, all while keeping your toes pointed inwards!

Snapshot_81

Holding & Using The Mallet

Getting used to riding a Polo horse came fairly naturally. As I got the picked up the basic, we moved fairly quick into the proper technique on how to hold the Polo mallet (the large Stick!) and the correct way to hit the ball.

Holding The Mallet Correctly:

  1. You always hold the mallet in your right hand
  2. Hold your right hand out straight, loop the handle over your thumb
  3. Flipping your hand over, twisting the handle slightly for grip, you finish by placing the polo stick (with the number facing outward) into the palm of your hand.
  4. The end of the polo stick should lie on the end of your palm just before your wrist starts.
  5. Once you have a good grip you must then hold the stick with the end facing upwards and with your elbow tight in by your right side. See pics below!

It is a lot to take in, trust me. It took me a while to grasp it, Prepare for jelly arms!!

Snapshot_64

Let The Games Begin

There are 4 types of swings that Leo showed me. The forehand, backhand, neck, and tail. We focused on the forehand swing, one of the most common and easiest out of the 4.

In walk we began practicing by hitting the ball. It is quite petrifying to begin with, there is a fear of trying not to land on your face anytime you go to hit the ball. It wasn’t too long before I began to realised that keeping your eye on the ball and not in the horses legs gives you a better chance of actually being able to hit the ball.

One thing Leo did comment on was not to hit the ball as if I was holding a tennis racket, that was down to more practice being needed by me to get used to proper polo techniques.

As I got the grips with things, we began to hit the ball in canter. Dear Lord it was a million times harder. I did manage to hit the ball a few times, but there were also times where I nearly whacked the poor horse straight in the face…. I honestly don’t know how horses had the patience for me!

Tackling

You almost forget that during a polo match you are playing against an opposite team trying to win the ball for points. The tackling part of the sport is something that will take a little longer for me to get used to.

When Leo went in for a tackle the first time pushing me & my horse away from the ball using his upper body, I literally stopped the horse dead and let out a scream. As we practiced more, my competitive streak began to show & I improved quite rapidly….. apparently you’re not allowed use your elbows… its a foul if you do!

We finished up shortly after this, I was just about able to breath, the fitness behind a polo player is phenomenal. I definitely have a new found appreciation for the sport that’s for sure.

The Verdict

What an amazing experience, one that I will most definitely never forget & one I always look back on with a fire in my stomach to get back on board & learn more. I do hope to start back up again this summer. You never know, you might see me playing my first official polo match in The Phoenix park yet!

A big thank you to Palo Alto & The All Ireland Polo Club who I organised this lesson with last year. Have anyone of you tried playing Polo? Let me know in the comments below. I do apologise if my Polo Terminology is not spot on, I’m am after all a beginner!

Snapshot_78

Want to see how my lesson really went? Check out the video below!

Thanks for Reading,

Darielle