I know what you’re thinking; I thought the same thing when it was pitched to me.
Polo, that’s the game where people take mallets, get on horseback and hit a ball, like hockey on ponies.
Being a sporty kind of guy from South East London I didn’t imagine polo was really suitable for someone like me, I’ve never ridden a pony before (unless you count being walked around on one as a child at Centre Parcs) and the only information that I had ever gathered about Polo suggested it was a sport reserved for those who could afford it.
I remember a very old saying, polo the sport is for the rich, polo the mint is for everyone else.
That said, I love the opportunity to try new things, so when I was invited to an afternoon Polo lesson at Hurlingham Park in association with Polo In The Park. I jumped at the chance.
What I found was a fascinating experience, one which actually stripped away many of my pre conceived thoughts towards the sport as well.
As I sat at the table with the rest of the attendees to this free session (which you’re able to sign up to, for free, via the facebook group here) I learnt how polo is in fact thousands of years old, and the modern variation of the game was developed by a couple of British soldiers a few hundred years ago.
I also learnt the basic rules of the game within twenty minutes and before I knew it, I found myself standing on a milk crate learning how to hit a ball with a polo mallet.
If that didn’t seem like enough of a breakneck speed for the session to progress at I was then put on the back of a pony and taught to steer very quickly before setting off in my debut game of polo.
Now aspects of this don’t sound unusual; in football for example you teach the basic rules, define who’s on which side then say play, much like with rugby, hockey and all other major sports.
But I have to admit I was rather nervous when it came to Polo, firstly because my main concern was simple; How do you ensure that you don’t hurt the pony?
I’m still not sure of the answer, but during a quick riding lesson where we were taught how to turn the pony and how to gallop I realised the pony I was using didn’t want to move quickly at all, so we took it gently and enjoyed the experience.
As the session came to a close, I assimilated the information gathered in the hour and a half I had spent there.
I had been fortunate enough to have had my eyes opened to a brand a new sport. (One that I was naturally quite useless at)
These Polo sessions are being run as part of the build up to the main Polo In The Park event, which will see Hurlingham Park in South West London converted into a 32,000 seater stadium over the weekend of June 4, for an event that will see the world of Polo host their equivalent to the football World Cup.
Further details about Polo In The Park can be found at www.polointheparklondon.com