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A warm welcome into

the world of Polo…

THE WORLD OF POLO

by The Stuart Family

One family recall thoughts from their fi rst season as club members at Ham.

The player: Jo (wife and mother)

“Strangely, I kept putting off trying polo – even though it was practically on my doorstep and my passion for horses and competition riding have been ingrained in me, almost since birth. I guess mummies are universally bad at fi nding time for themselves.

Finally, at Ham Polo Club on May 22nd,

Mounted on the club’s 14-year old schoolmaster [Sandy], I set out to the ‘Stick and Ball’ fi eld with the club’s Polo Manager, Adolfo Casabal. An hour later, dripping with sweat, with a weak right arm and aching thighs, I returned wearing the biggest smile on my face. My deal with the devil had been struck. I already understood much of why I love horse riding: the athleticism beyond human limits; the thrill of communication matched only by the thrill of achievement. But why the sound of a stick connecting sweetly with a polo ball can feel that good I do not know. It just does. Golfers can probably empathise...

Wow! All this strength of feeling before I even played in a chukka, where I would come to enjoy the team aspect and competing against the other side!

PLAYER: WIFE/MOTHER

The team behind the Club are incredibly welcoming, down to earth and friendly – not at all how you might imagine, given polo’s glamorous image as a sport often associated with the super rich and famous. It goes without saying that they were encouraging. But most of all, it was actually really easy to just have a go.

SUPPORTER: HUSBAND/FATHER

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You might imagine that there would be numerous barriers to trying polo: being unfamiliar with horses; unable to ride well; never having swung a mallet and so on. While there are many prestigious tournaments throughout the season at Ham, the Club is well used to accommodating those new to the sport – also on tutorial days during the 2009 season, where nearly all the participants were totally new to the sport, many never having sat on a horse before. Despite being ex-playing ponies, the schoolmasters used in lessons are dependable, kind and quiet. They know their job well and more importantly, still possess a joy for the sport.

The rules are all in the HPA Year Book, but like in any sport, it takes time to assimilate what they mean in the context of playing. And of course, the best way to learn is from making mistakes. It’s been really heartening that the other members are so tolerant of those of us starting out and fi nding our way through the rules of play.

As this exciting journey into the world of Polo has unfolded, we, like many others, have enjoyed the club’s relaxed and enjoyable social side, welcoming all the members of our family, and friends. One of the unexpected pleasures of being involved in the Club is to witness the sheer joy and exhilaration on the faces of participants in the Corporate Days. They are often high achievers at work, used to being in control and expert in their fi eld. In the space of just a couple of hours, however far they may initially feel out of their comfort zones, they manage to canter across a large green fi eld on a thoroughbred polo pony, with the reins gathered in their left hand, and hit a ball with a 53” stick! It’s obvious to any bystander what a buzz and sense of achievement they get.

As a busy mother of two, what is particularly great about playing polo is how much fun you can have in a relatively short space of time – a bit like skiing. Compared with my old sport of eventing, where it was necessary to train each horse in each of the three disciplines for many hours a week; playing polo is much more accessible, almost just ‘ride and go’. At entry level, much less training and practice is required than in other equestrian disciplines, and the grooms keep the ponies ticking over nicely. Perhaps best of all, for families like mine who travelled many miles to compete (having trained for months) only to fi nd a single fence down in the Show-jumping phase knocked you out of the Top 10, polo is a game of at least four chukkas. One bad chukka and it’s OK –

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