Tag Archive: polo

  1. A beginner’s guide to playing polo

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    As the British polo season kicks in, why not learn to play and join the action? Polo is a fascinating sport that has been played for more than 2,500 years. The earliest written account of a game describes a game that took place between the Persians and the Turkomans around 600 BC. The game of polo we see today, is derived from Manipur in India, and was popularized in the 19th century by British cavalry officers.

    Despite a reputation as an impenetrable sport reserved solely for the upper classes, it is open to everyone willing to have a go. And although polo can be expensive, it is possible to find beginner lessons at a reasonable price on a hired pony.

    How to find a polo school

    There is no requirement to join a club in order to have lessons, but it is important you find a reputable outfit to begin your education. For a full list of approved and insured polo schools visit The Association of Polo Schools and Pony Hirers.

    Your first lesson will take you through the very basics of the game (riding and stick work) and may well include a session on a wooden horse, before you mount the real thing.

    As you progress in the sport, you will take private or group lessons with a qualified instructor and take part in instructional chukkas (entry level chukkas for beginners). When you feel ready to play proper chukkas, and eventually take part in matches and tournaments, you will need to join a polo club. The UK has more than 70 clubs under the auspices of the Hurlingham Polo Association (01367 242828).

    Tip: Consider starting lessons in winter and take advantage of the arena polo season. It is cheaper than grass and being ‘contained’ in an arena is reassuring for a complete novice.

    What you need to know

    Courage and physical fitness are both needed to play polo. It is a physically demanding game that requires a good standard of aerobic fitness and a mobile style of riding. Unlike other disciplines, where the rider shows little movement, over time, good polo players develop exceptional balance, flexibility and strength, which allows them to lean out and take shots without unbalancing the pony.

    How to develop your polo riding style

    Like any equestrian discipline, the key to success is developing a strong, balanced and secure seat. However, there is a technique that is integral to the polo riding style:

    Your upper legs (from knee to groin) should be the primary source of stabilizing your seat. Polo saddles don’t have knee rolls and correct technique requires you to be out of the saddle when you take a shot, so you must grip with your thighs to make a stable hitting platform. An easy way to put yourself into this position is to make a conscious effort to turn your heels out and push your feet away from the horse’s side, before flexing your ankles and turning your little toe up and out to the side.

    Understanding polo basics

    The aim of the game is to strike the ball up the field and through the goal posts —easier said than done when you’re also controlling a pony and wielding a 52” stick.

    Players hit the ball with a mallet and the basic shots are named for the side of the polo pony from which the mallet swing is made. The “near side” is the left side of the mounted pony, and the “off side” is the right side.

    Off side forehand

    Swing the mallet forward on the pony’s off side. This shot will be one of the first you learn.

    Near side forehand

    Swing the mallet forward or laterally on the pony’s near side.

    Offside backhand

    Swing the mallet in the opposite direction of travel (backward) on the pony’s off side.

    Near side backhand

    Swing the mallet in the opposite direction of travel (backward) on the pony’s near side. A difficult shot to execute properly!

    Neck shot

    Swing the mallet under the pony’s neck on the offside or nearside of the mount.

    Offside tail shot

    Swing the mallet behind and under the pony’s bottom.

    Offside belly shot

    Hit the ball on the offside so that it travels underneath the pony’s belly.

    What to wear

    There is no point in splashing out on specialist kit when you’re an absolute beginner. If you already ride and have jodhpurs, riding boots (or boots and chaps) and your own helmet, definitely wear these. Alternatively, jeans or comfortable trousers will suffice, worn with boots with a small heel. Gloves are also recommended.

    As you improve, and you start playing chukkas, matches and tournaments, you will need to invest in proper polo whites, polo boots (these should be triple layered to offer protection from bumps and balls), knee guards and a polo helmet. Some like to invest in a face guard or goggles too, to protect against direct facial impact.

    Polo glossary

    Chukka

    A seven-minute period of play with up to 30 seconds ‘overtime’ for all but the final chukka. High-goal matches are typically played over six to eight chukkas and low to medium goal matches are played over four to five.

    Handicap

    A player’s rating, based on their ability. Players are rating on a scale of -2 to 10, with 10 being the best. Those new to polo will start on ‘S’ (starter) until they have sat their rules test through the HPA.

    Hook

    Catching an opponent’s mallet in the act of a swing, stopping him from striking the ball.

    Pony

    Speed, agility and mental soundness make the ideal polo pony. Historically, the height for polo ponies was limited to 14.2 hands, but this limit was abolished in 1919. Today’s polo ponies are predominantly Thoroughbred.

    Ride-off

    Pushing another player off the ball by using your horse to barge theirs out of the way.

    Rules

    Polo is a fast and dangerous game and the rules are there to ensure the safety of both players and ponies. The main rule in polo is that the player on the line of the ball, or the imaginary line along which the ball travels, has the right of way and may only be challenged by being ridden off, or having his stick hooked.

    The season

    The main polo season in the UK is from May to September and indoor or arena polo is played throughout the winter.

    Top image: players in action at a past edition of the Jaeger LeCoultre Polo Masters, by Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0

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  2. 11 things you need to know before your first polo match

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    Who can forget that famous scene in Pretty Woman when Edward (Richard Gere) takes Vivian (Julia Roberts) to a polo match? With the British polo season kicking into full gear, now is the perfect opportunity to play Julia Roberts to your Richard Gere. If you too are feeling daunted by the prospect of watching your first live game, though, here’s a handy guide to chukkas, throw-ins and avoiding steaming divots, all with a flute of champagne in your hand.

    Food

    First up, lunch comes first, then the polo. You’ll either be eating a picnic on the lawn, or being served a sit-down lunch, afternoon tea and continuous champagne.

    Vocab

    Brush up on your polo vocabulary to keep the conversation flowing: the sticks are called ‘sticks’ or ‘mallets’, the ball is a ‘ball’, and fouls are called ‘fouls’. So far so good. However, don’t call the ground a ‘pitch’ and the horses are called ‘ponies’, regardless of size.

    Do say

    “Smashing neck shot.”

    Don’t say

    “Is Prince Harry playing today?”

    Chukka

    A chukka is a seven-minute period of play with up to 30 seconds ‘overtime’ for all but the final chukka. High-goal matches are typically played over six to eight chukkas and low to medium goal matches are played over four to five.

    Chotto

    A rude word in Spanish, used to describe bad players.

    Divots

    Pieces of turf kicked up by the ponies’ hooves. You will be asked to ‘tread in’ these divots at half time. One word of advice: avoid the steaming divots.

    Handicap

    A player’s rating, based on their ability. Players are rating on a scale of -2 to 10, with 10 being the best. The combination of handicaps between the four players of the team denotes the level of the tournament.

    Pony lines

    The place where the ponies are kept and looked after by grooms during the game. You can visit the pony lines, but don’t pet the ponies without permission.

    Throw In

    To start a play, one of two umpires or perhaps a distinguished guest will throw in the ball between the two teams of four players.

    Penalties

    Awarded when a foul is committed. These vary depending on the severity of the foul committed. TIP: If a player is taking a free shot, don’t clap until the shot has passed through the goal posts, or you might upset the player (and the pony’s) concentration.

    Dress code

    Contrary to public opinion, the dress code is reasonably relaxed, unless of course you are lunching in the Members’ Enclosure or royals are present. The dreaded smart casual is the best bet for both sexes and whatever you do, don’t wear white jeans, you are a spectator, not a player.

    Men

    Chinos, blazer and a shirt. Consider a tie if it’s a smart day.

    Women

    Classic and sophisticated are the key themes here. Go for sundresses that are comfortable and long enough for sitting on the grass. For a more conservative look, wear chinos with a blazer.

    Stiletto heels are an amateur mistake – you will sink backwards into the grass during treading in, and most likely end up head over heels. Either go for smart flats or wedges.

    As you’ll potentially be in the sun all day, remember those all important outdoor necessities – sunblock, sunglasses, a hat and binoculars to keep on top of the action at the other end of the field.

    Top tips

    If you are watching from the side of the ground be sure to keep a safe distance from the sidelines. The game moves very quickly and sometimes a polo ball will be hit accidentally in the wrong direction or a pony might veer towards the crowd.

    That said, watching the match at ground level is hard to understand. If you can find a raised vantage point this will give you a much better view of the game. And finally, if you bring your dog, make sure you keep him on a lead.

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  3. Happy birthday, Prince Harry

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    Prince Harry turns 31 on September 15, 2015. Like most members of the Royal Family, he is passionate about horses: a keen polo player who raises money for charity at many competition events, he also enjoys going to the races and has done a spot of driving. To celebrate his 31st birthday, we bring you 31 pictures of the Prince’s best (and worst) horsey moments.

    First steps

    A few months after turning three, Prince Harry enjoys a pony ride at Sandringham, led by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

    Riding out with Daddy…

    Prince Charles leads Prince Harry’s pony around Windsor Castle in March 1989, while big brother Prince William manages on his own.

    …and going solo

    Prince Harry enjoys a pony ride near the Sandringham Estate in December 1989.

    Who’s afraid of a big horse?

    Although this mount is rather bigger than his usual ponies, the five-year-old Prince looks perfectly at ease after the Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

    Polo beginnings

    Prince Harry and Prince William try their own version of polo while watching their father play in a match in 1990.

    Family ride

    A little older than six, Prince Harry keeps up with Prince William and their father at Sandringham.

    Getting to grips with the equipment

    An eight-year-old Prince Harry helps Prince Charles tighten his kneepads.

    Look at me!

    Prince Charles pulls a face while talking to Prince Harry in a pause of a polo match at Cirencester Polo Club in June 1997, a few months before the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

    What’s this for?

    Prince Harry plays with a polo mallet at the Beaufort Hunt Polo Club under the watchful eye of the Prince of Wales in May 1999.

    Daddy’s little helper

    The Prince holds his father’s polo stick as Prince Charles get ready to play in a charity match at the Beaufort Polo Club in June 2000.

    Almost got it!

    Prince Harry heads for the ball during a polo match at Cirencester in Gloucestershire in 2001. He played on the same team as Prince Charles and Prince William, and they won.

    Who can beat Zara?

    The Prince and his older cousin play at Tidworth Polo Club in 2002 to raise money for spinal chord injury charity Inspire.

    Yihaa!

    Prince Harry takes a moment’s respite after rounding up cattle at the Tooloombilla Ranch in Queensland, Australia. The Prince spent part of his gap year there, working as a jackaroo, in 2003.

    In honour of the Queen

    Prince Harry plays in the Cartier Golden Jubilee polo match at Guards Polo Club in 2004.

    Horse love….

    The Prince hugs and kisses a polo pony at Cirencester Park Polo Club in July 2004.

    … and dog love

    Prince Harry takes some time to play with a Labrador after beating his brother Prince William in a charity polo match in March 2005.

    One is not happy

    Prince Harry looks rather disappointed during the Cartier Cup match between Prince of Wales’ Team and Hurlingham Team at the Guards Polo Club in July 2006 in Egham.

    Sisterly love

    The Duchess of Cambridge — then Kate Middleton — accompanies a sweatshirt-clad Prince Harry and Prince William at a charity match at Coworth Park in May 2008.

    Joy or pain?

    Prince Harry lets out a scream during the Chakravarty Cup at Beaufort Polo Club in July 2009.

    A right Royal tumble

    Prince Harry falls off his pony during the 2010 Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic in New York.

    Riding in Africa…

    Prince William and Prince Harry ride to Semenkong, in Lesotho, to visit a child education centre in 2010.

    …and playing for Africa

    Prince Harry plays against Prince William in the Sentebale Polo Cup at Cowart Park in Ascot in June 2011. The annual Cup aims to raise awareness and support the work of the Sentebale charity, which Prince Harry founded with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to provide healthcare and education to deprived children.

    At the races

    Prince Harry is tense as he watches the Queen’s racehorse, Carlton House, compete in the Epsom Derby at Epsom Downs in June 2011. Carlton House finished third.

    All aboard!

    The Prince tries his hand at driving as he gets ready to play in the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup in Haras Larissa, Brazil in March 2012.

    Who’s the baby?

    Prince Harry pulls a funny face to entertain a baby during the Audi Polo Challenge at Coworth Park in May 2012.

    Family man

    Prince Harry takes a moment to say hello to Savannah Phillips, Princess Anne’s granddaughter, during the Golden Metropolitan Polo Club Charity Cup in June 2012.

    At the Olympics

    Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge discuss the action as they watch eventing’s showjumping phase at the 2012 London Olympics.

    Sibling rivalry

    Prince Harry rides hard to beat his brother, Prince William, at the Beaufort Polo Club charity day in June 2013.

    Oh, look!

    Prince Harry turns to the sky for inspiration during the second day of the Audi Polo Challenge at Coworth Park in June 2014.

    Up with the Army

    Prince Harry flies the flag for the Army in the Rundle Polo Cup against the Navy in July 2014.

    Victory!

    The Royal Salute team of Eduardo Novillo Astrada, Prince Harry, Malcolm Borwick and Sir Charles Williams win the Gigaset Charity Polo Match at the Beaufort Polo Club on June 14 this year. Prince William played for the opposite side, with the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George, Prince Charles and the Phillips cousins all watching from the sidelines.

    Main image: Prince Harry at the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup in Abu Dhabi, November 2014, by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Royal Salute, courtesy of Land Rover MENA, official sponsors of the fifth edition of the Sentebale Polo Cup, CC BY 2.0

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  4. England win the Coronation Cup at Guards Polo Club

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    The England polo team beat South America by 10 goals to six in the Royal Salute Coronation Cup at Guards Polo Club in Berkshire on July 25.

    Sandwiched between two days of torrential rain, conditions on Saturday were perfect, and a huge crowd gathered for the climax of the British high-goal polo season.

    Captained by James Beim, England were in the element on the rain-softened ground. Max Charlton scored the first goal of the match, and Luke Tomlinson — a stalwart of the England team for many years — swiftly followed suit.

    Rodrigo Andrade got South America underway in the second chukka — and the nine-goaler from Brazil scored the majority of his team’s goals.

    But England were always dominant. Each member of the team scored – Tomlinson’s brother, Mark, was the fourth member of the squad. Beim scored four goals, and Charlton three, with the Tomlinsons contributing three between them.

    Brigadier John Wright, chairman of the Hurlingham Polo Association, said: “England’s success today is testament to the hard work and commitment that England captain James Beim and his team have brought to this game and I would like to thank everyone who has supported them, especially their fellow players who generously loaned ponies.”

    The Prince of Wales presented England with the impressive Coronation Cup. England’s Charlton was awarded the Most Valuable Player prize, while Silver Lining, played by Andrade, was Best Playing Pony.

    Image: a moment of the hard-fought match, by Images of Polo, courtesy of Guards Polo Club

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  5. Out and about at the Royal Salute Coronation Cup

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    It was England at its best both on and off the polo pitch as the home team beat South America to win the Royal Salute Coronation Cup while spectators enjoyed a glorious day in the sunshine.

    Ready for polo

    Prince Charles, who sported an elegant beige suit brightened up by a Regimental tie and a purple boutonniere, got ready to watch England beat South America at the Royal Salute Coronation Cup.

    Off the pitch

    England regular Malcolm Borwick, snapped here with Royal Salute’s Jacques-Henri Brive, enjoyed the afternoon off the pitch after hosting a polo clinic at Coworth Park.

    Polo action

    Some of the world’s greatest polo players faced off in a hard-fought match.

    Time-travel picnic

    Artist Marcos Lutyens and gardener Stephen Woodhams created a memorable picnic setting for celebrity guests, such party planner Yasmin Mills, who wore a stunning wrap. The Royal Salute’s Secret Garden recreated the floral displays seen at HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation and guests enjoyed temporally flexible “Hampering of Time” hampers that recalled the elegant picnics of Regency England and featured Lutyens’ time-inspired handmade games, including a clock that makes time flow backwards.

    Flower power

    Among the guests was also soprano Natalie Coyle, who dazzled in a bright floral skirt.

    Keeping time

    Piaget was the official timekeeper at the Royal Salute Coronation Cup.

    Stomping along

    Socialite Henry Conway trod in during half-time.

    English triumph

    James Belm lifted the cup after England’s victory.

    Top player

    England’s Max Charlton was named Most Valuable Player, while Silver Lining received the Best Playing Pony prize.

    Main image: John Phillips / Getty Images, courtesy of Royal Salute

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  6. King Power Foxes win the Gold Cup at Cowdray Park

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    King Power Foxes pulled off British polo’s big double by adding the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdray Park on July 19 to their victory earlier in the season in the Cartier Queen’s Cup at Guards. They beat UAE by 14 goals to eight and remain unbeaten for the 2015 season.

    The mighty 10-goal Argentinian brothers Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres scored 10 of King Power Foxes goals between them, but young English player Hugo Lewis — playing in his first Gold Cup, aged 20 — put two on the board, including the final goal after a brilliant, pitch-long gallop towards the posts.

    King Power Foxes, who have only been on the British high-goal polo scene for two years, are backed by Thai duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who also owns Leicester City Football Club. His son Aiyawatt, known as “Top”, plays the number one position in the team — and scored two goals in this swelteringly hot final in front of a crowd of 15,000.

    Unfortunately, Top suffered a fall in the fourth chukka and was unable to continue playing, so his place was taken by another young Brit, Kian Hall.

    Peter McCormack, team manager of King Power Foxes, said: “Everybody said we had the toughest match today, but with the belief and the pride of the performance we put in, we knew that we could do this.”

    King Power Foxes had given Zacara a drubbing, 15-9, in the semi-finals three days earlier, while UAE — led by 10-goal Argentinian player Pablo MacDonough — had beaten Apes Hill by 14 goals to eight.

    Last year’s Gold Cup winners, Dubai, experienced a shock defeat in the quarter finals by Zacara.

    Image by Joan Wakeham/REX Shutterstock

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  7. New “crash sensor” polo helmet could save lives

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    Rider safety is always paramount in all aspects of equestrian – so the work of 23-year-old Northamptonshire undergraduate Robin Spicer does not deserve to go unnoticed.

    Visitors to the Loughborough University Design School Show in Leicestershire (June 12-15) would have had an opportunity for detailed assessment of Robin’s prototype – the ARMIS Polo Helmet.

    His design for a safer polo helmet – complete with a built-in crash sensor – could save lives by alerting emergency responders to impacts and falls that may cause head injuries.

    Robin Spicer - Design School Show - ARMIS

    Robin, a final year industrial design and technology undergraduate and regular polo player, has already attracted the attention of leading market retailers and manufacturers with his polo helmet redesign, an idea that could revolutionise helmet safety

    The unique design contains a ‘crash sensor’ which Robin plans to link to a smartphone app via long-range bluetooth.

    His overall aim is to develop the technology to alert emergency responders to falls and impacts that may require medical attention due to unseen, non-tangible concussions, as well as sending GPS co-ordinates of where the incident has occurred when the rider is training alone.

    The prototype was created using a 3D printer and developed for production, comprising a crumple zone made of expanded polystyrene, a flexible peak, and a multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) that moves inside the helmet, mimicking the brain’s own protection system.

    The low friction layer reduces the amount of rotational acceleration to the head and minimises the risk of suffering a serious brain injury.

    Robin has played polo since the age of six, and he said the helmet has been designed with the British Standards in mind, incorporating safety clips, streamlined air vents and a double layered carbon fibre shell to prevent penetrations.

    He was awarded a £350 bursary from the James Dyson Foundation to help bring his project to fruition as part of his end-of-year degree show.

    “I’ve fallen off countless times while playing polo and have been knocked unconscious three times, with the most recent incident lasting for over 20 minutes. But I was straight back up on to the horse and playing polo again in a couple of days, which I really shouldn’t have been,” he says.

    “With my polo helmet design, I hope to change attitudes and behaviour towards safety in the sport and encourage polo players to seek proper medical attention when suffering a dangerous head impact.

    “Even though the rate of injury in polo is low, the severity rate is extremely high. If I can influence other manufacturers and companies to have a re-think about the design of their polo helmets and look at making them safer, then I have achieved my goal.”

    Helmet and App

    Professor Tracy Bhamra, Dean of Loughborough Design School, added: “Robin’s ARMIS™ Polo Helmet is a fantastic design which has really caught the eye of staff, students and business people.

    “The fact that Robin was able to go from a sketch to such a well-developed, high quality prototype in just eight months, shows how dedicated and committed he has been to the course and his future success.”

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  8. England beats Ireland at polo

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    With the two highest-goal teams in the fixture’s history lining up for the match, it was always going to be close – and at half time the score was 9-5 in Ireland’s favour. However, the second half saw England fight their way back into the lead, with just two goals separating the teams with the final 2min 30sec left on the clock.

    But as the clock counted down, the England team of Chris Hyde (9-goals), Jamie Le Hardy (7) and Jonny Good (8) increased their lead to five goals.

    After the match, captain Chris Hyde explained that a dominant second half had been part of their game plan. “It was part of our team play. We had used our weaker horses by the end of the second chukka, knowing we’d need a strong third chukka and then would have the wind for the last chukka,” he says.

    Hyde was pleased to be on the winning side once again, after the USA ended England’s unbroken winning streak in last year’s Test Match. The 9-goal player, who is Europe’s highest rated Arena player, gave credit to his team and to everyone who provided ponies for the match.

    polo

    “Jamie and Jonny haven’t played a competitive match for months and got this big call up. When you get players of the quality of Jamie and Jonny on a team together they’re going to be tough to beat, and they were.”

    Jamie Le Hardy won the Most Valuable Player award, while Irish team player Richard Le Poer’s ride Dig Deep was the Best Playing Pony. Richard’s Ireland team mates were Sebastian Dawnay and Ryan Pemble, both 8-goal players.

    In the Hickstead 12-Goal Challenge, which preceded the Test Match, the Irish team (Richard Fagan, Niall Donnelly and Michael Henderson) won 20-9 against Wales (Ricky Cooper, Roddy Matthews and Roddy Williams), ending the Welsh sides  three-year winning streak.

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