Your Horse Chal­lenges You… to try polo

Ath­letic, nim­ble and full of char­ac­ter, a good polo pony will teach you far more than just the game at hand, finds Kate McLaugh­lin

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

POLO IS A FAST-paced, adrenaline­fu­elled game, steeped in his­tory. It tests the skill of the rider and the agility of the horse, who is al­ways called a polo pony, re­gard­less of height. Once thought of as an elite hobby, only for the rich or those of royal blood, polo has never been more ac­ces­si­ble. With over 70 clubs in the UK, a large univer­sity, school and young rider fol­low­ing and many es­tab­lish­ments of­fer­ing lessons, there has never been a bet­ter time to try a sport that tests the al­liance be­tween horse and rider. Games are di­vided into pe­ri­ods of play called chukkas. Each lasts ap­prox­i­mately seven min­utes and al­lows for 30 sec­onds over­time. Pro­fes­sional polo play­ers usu­ally change ponies dur­ing a chukka, nim­bly leap­ing from one pony to the next with­out their feet touch­ing the ground. Speed is a huge fac­tor in the game, but the most im­por­tant rule is right of way. Dur­ing play there is an imag­i­nary line of ball. If an­other player crosses it close enough to be dan­ger­ous, or causes a break in the other player’s speed, a foul is com­mit­ted and a penalty awarded.

Push­ing per­mit­ted

Up close and per­sonal is al­lowed un­der the rules, with play­ers us­ing their horses to push op­po­nents away from the ball. Rhian Rose-Jones, who re­cently had her first polo les­son, says: “I de­cided to give polo a go be­cause it looks so much fun. The ap­peal for me is how fast the game can be and that it’s a team sport. “The ponies have a job to do and they know it well. When they’re not play­ing, they stand qui­etly on the side­lines and wait their turn. Once play be­gins, they are quick to stop and turn for for­wards or back­wards shots with ease and power. “The dif­fer­ence in tack and equip­ment is a real learn­ing curve, from the low­pom­mel sad­dle to the ex­tra set of reins that re­quire some co-or­di­na­tion to mas­ter. I can’t wait to try some of what I’ve learned with my own pony Or­bit.” Any­one can have a go at polo. It’s an ex­cit­ing test of your bal­ance, fo­cus and co-or­di­na­tion — learn­ing how to use the mal­let, rid­ing one-handed and mak­ing quick de­ci­sions when mov­ing at speed. Be­ing aboard a pony so switched on to his job will chal­lenge your re­sponses in the sad­dle and teach you trans­fer­able skills that you can take home and im­ple­ment, what­ever you en­joy do­ing most with your horse.

To find a club near you that of­fers lessons, visit polo­times.co.uk.

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