Polo Darling by cmlang


									by: Debbie Downes

You may think that polo is only for the elite, well you are wrong. Anyone can have a go at the
sport of princes, even those that cannot ride (65% of those taught polo have never ridden before).

I was a bit apprehensive when I arrived at the school. Looking around at the others who had
booked on to the 2 hour lesson, it seemed I was the only one who did not have my own jodhpurs,
boots and hat. This did not matter as all essential equipment is provided for the day.

The morning started with a briefing on the basic rules and theory of polo. In short polo is a
tactical game with either 3 (indoor or enclosed arena) or 4 (full size ground) players a side. The
team scoring most goals wins.

As players and horses travel at up to 35 mph when at top speed, there are strict rules about how
players can approach and attack the ball and each other.

Using a board and miniature men on horses we were introduced to the concept of "the line of the
ball". This is the imaginary line or road the ball creates as it is hit from point A to B. Once we
had got our heads around this concept, the rules soon became clear as they are very much like the
rules of the road. Don't overtake unless you know the coast is clear, don't ride head on, and if you
are turning onto the imaginary road make sure that it is safe to do so.

We then went and stood on crates to practice the polo swing. I'm glad we did this as it allowed us
to focus on getting the technique right without worrying about the horse. Plus, crates don't bolt
when you accidentally hit them. All you had to remember is to let the mallet swing by itself and
not to force it. We practiced both offside and nearside shots.

The best bit was when we got to ride the polo ponies. I have never ridden such well schooled
horses before. I could move, stop and turn the pony with only very small changes in how I was
sat, where the reigns were and how I was pushing down on the stirrups. I wish all horses were
like these.

We were then given the mallets to practice hitting the ball from the pony. I did not find this too
difficult, probably because I wasn't riding as fast as the others and so had more time to focus on
the ball.

After a short break everyone had the opportunity to play a couple of instructional chukkas or
mini games. This was supposed to enable us to experience the tactics and team play involved in
playing the game. However, with constant missing of the ball and stationary horses, it was more
of a laugh than educational.

I would thoroughly recommend this experience to all.

This article was posted on March 24, 2005

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