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Polo – The King of Games

Regarded as the sport of kings, polo is believed to be the oldest organised team sport in the world.  It did start out, and was for quite some time, the sport of Kings and Queens. While royalty still play today, it is also possible for us mere mortals to learn to play and I am living proof.

I have watched many a game and dreamt of having a go myself but thought it was out of reach as A) I don’t own a horse, B) I thought the lessons would be too expensive and C) well, to be honest I thought there was just so much to think about and do: staying on, guiding the pony, wielding a mallet and ensuring I hit the ball only and not other players, the pony or myself, hitting the ball in the right direction and listening to the all important guidance from two very patient coaches.

Thanks to brothers Matt and Luke O’Leary, who run the Victorian and Brisbane Polo Academies, help is at hand for us dreamers. I have been enjoying my lessons at Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre, home to the sport of polo in Victoria, where on day one I learnt that approximately 60 per cent of the people wanting to learn have little or no horse experience.

The O’Leary brothers not only coach but also train the ponies so you are in the expert hands of two professional players. The ponies know exactly what to do thus you can focus more on technique and connecting mallet and ball and when you do well, it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world!  The introduction to this realisation usually happens in lesson one thanks to some constant reminders of how to position your body and the mallet.  As Matt explains, “ listening and accepting the sometimes rigorous requirements of learning a new skill is the biggest challenge.”

Several lessons in and I am committed and refuse to give it up. There is no experience like it. I assumed that with all the usual life commitments I would find it difficult to make it to lessons once a week but for the first time in a long time, I vowed to make the time for myself and, after all Werribee is a quick 30 minutes from the Melbourne CBD.

Polo is the fastest growing sport in the UK, especially among women, and Australia is currently experiencing the same trend. It is one of the most complex sports to play and ultimately master. You’ll relish the challenge as you develop a great respect and bond with the ponies.  For many, the initial introduction to the sport comes from an interest in the social aspect for which the sport is so well known and, no doubt you’ll meet some great characters. However, all socializing aside, it is one of the most complete workouts you’ll find in an hour, drawing on muscle strength, cardio stamina, mental concentration and team mentality. It’s so invigorating, exciting and ultimately rewarding on all levels. What’s not to like?

Best not to invest in the white jeans, polo boots and knee pads straight up. Regardless of how much you might like the idea it tends to look a little pretentious when starting out.  You almost have to earn the right to don this gear.  So jeans and jodhpurs are popular, with riding boots and a helmet essential. The rest is taken care of by the Victorian Polo Academy.

“We have created a business around polo that takes all the requirements away and makes it accessible for everyone. A lesson costs ($150) and this covers everything. In terms of general costs involved with horses and riding this represents great value,” said Matt.

Booking lessons

Victoria:

Vicpolo Academy http://www.vicpolo.com/

Queensland:

Brisbane Polo Academyoffice@doombenpoloacademy.com

NSW:

Windsor Polo Clubhttp://www.wpc.orgau

 

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