WHY NOT HAVE A GO AT POLO? - Jane did and had so much fun

POLO - why not have a go, I did and had so much fun!
Throughout my very fortunate life with horses I have been privileged to have watched Polo matches in the UK and New Zealand and have always been fascinated by the speed and agility of both horse and rider. 
This must be another sport I really must have a go at sometime, so different from anything else I have done. 

During a hunting day I had a chat with Paul Piddington, who is the owner and manager of the Vale of York Polo Club near Doncaster. I was encouraged to give it a go, so I arranged a date and booked the one hour beginners lesson.

Paul's yard has a club house, stabling for 40 ponies, turnout paddocks and the playing field; there are ponies to hire to compete or have lessons on and with Paul being a highly recognised and respected HPA certificated coach, all abilities are catered for from the absolute novice like me to competing team members.  I knew I would be in good hands and immediately I was put at ease and was filled with an anxious excitement. 

Paul introduced me to my polo Pony, a little thoroughbred ex-racehorse mare called Millie, which Paul had re-trained, he informed me that all his hire ponies are expertly trained to respond to all the aids used in polo.

This is one sport where a good pony does not make a good rider; it really is a riding skill to learn in order to use the pony to its full potential. Paul encouraged me to enjoy the lesson and relax - all would be fine! 
Here we go, my first task was to be shown how to hold the reins correctly, as you can imagine this is very important as whilst playing you never have the chance to reorganise them because you have the polo stick in the other hand.

I was then introduced to the polo stick which was larger than I expected, and I was set the challenge of walking with it resting on my shoulder, five minuets later there I was polo stick held in the right place, I was amazed as to how comfortable it was.

Then came the real challenge, with Millie standing patiently I was asked to wield the polo stick around at the side of her, judging the sticks length and keeping it straight… Not easy when you are constantly worried about hitting the pony. Paul told me to stop worrying and simple focus on the stick and not Millie. It worked and I soon found myself swinging with relative ease.

Now slightly more confident with reins and stick, Paul introduced me to the training ground where there were two training lanes of cones. Each lane was laid out to teach me how to steer my pony from left then right all in walk, I was shown how to use my body weight in the saddle and the neck rein and although Paul made it look easy, I very quickly discovered the pony did not automatically bend when I used just the neck rein and I had to start moving my position in the saddle from straight to lift and try and face the pony's tail every time I turned left or right.


Wow! I was doing it and although only in walk, it felt good‚Äö√Ѭ∂. Not for long, I was soon directed by Paul to try  turning and swinging in a trot, as you can imagine everything went a little pear shaped, lots of movement and trying to control the stick, it was hilarious and Millie who stayed calm must have been wondering what on earth was happening!
Having managed to finally get some control back, well as best I could, we rode out on to the polo pitch to learn how to canter and turn. As long as I went straight I was doing well and managed to even keep things flowing however the turning was still an issue and when Paul finally introduced the ball things really got tough… pony, steering, stick and ball, I didn't know what to focus on first.


I was determined to continue; I was having fun and enjoying my new learning's. I wanted to get down the pitch and score. I pulled it together and with some intense concentration, focussed on my timing whilst trying to organise my seat and with much effort I wielded my stick and moved the direction of my well schooled pony towards the target. I managed to get a shot at goal, not great but it went in…. It felt great.
Paul and I continued to knock around doing various practise shots and exercises for the rest of the lesson, and every time I managed to connect with the ball I let out a squeal of excitement.
 I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, Millie was marvellous, very patient and kind, and Paul was so right I didn't have to worry as she took me to the ball more often than not. I had so much fun and I would strongly recommend that everyone should at least have one go. 

The Vale of York Polo Club offer a full book of competitions on grass and on the beach, ponies to suit all ages and ability and lessons for students, groups or individually. Paul offers a warm welcome to everyone and is very enthusiastic in encouraging more riders to have a go. For more details contact www.valeofyorkpoloclub.co.uk and don't forget to mention that you read this on horseanswerstoday.com   
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