5 things to do off the polo field
Polo is not just a sport it’s a lifestyle. Almost everyone who tries polo falls madly in love with the sport and before you know it polo is on your mind 24/7 and all conversations and actions have something to do with polo. All you want to do is get up on that pony and swing a mallet. Some people are lucky and get to play and watch polo all year around, others (like me) live in a country (Bahrain) where polo doesn’t exist and where 3 months out of the year it is too hot and humid to be outside for more than 10 minutes, so forget about regular riding as well! So what to do when polo is on your mind 24/7 and you can’t actually play? Well here are 5 things that have kept me busy and still focused on polo over these summer months.
*I now live and breathe polo, I work at the Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club so my whole life revolves around polo, but we are still limited by the hot Dubai weather. Ou season is October-April
- Keep up your polo fitness! This is crucial, cause there is nothing worse than finally going for a polo lesson and being super excited, but after 20 minutes your right arm resembles an overcooked string of spaghetti with a dangling mallet at the end (and don’t even get me started on how I was walking for the next 3 days!) So maintaining and improving my polo fitness has been a big focus of mine these past few months. In June I met up with Fitness for Polo guru Martin Perez and he taught me some exercises to do and I also bought his e-book for kindle (I use the iPad kindle app) and signed up for his newsletter receiving little challenges in my e-mail inbox and they are fun! At the gym I have been focusing a lot on my core muscles, flexibility and working on getting some strength in my arms.
I have a tennis ball near my couch, so when I am watching TV I do the grip exercises Martín told me to do. Starting out with a firm grip around the ball and squeezing it for 5 seconds 15 times.
- Practice with a foot mallet. This is also helpful for keeping up your flexibility in your upper body. When it’s not scorching hot I practice outside, but these past few months that hasn’t been possible. So instead of using polo balls I use tennis balls and practice in my living room (and I don’t hit with all my “strength”, but rather just practice the motion). My polo teacher and friend Roy gave me a tip to practice with Ping-Pong balls or golf balls (if you have a big backyard to practice in, Ping-Pong balls are better for living room practice sessions). Since the ball is so much smaller it makes it a little more difficult and resembles the degree of difficulty of hitting a normal polo ball but with a 52 inch mallet from horseback (at a stand-still without having to think about anything else than just hitting the ball). I really wish I could make a hitting cage here, maybe in my next home, wherever in the world that will be.
- Read up and keep up! I spend a lot of time reading up on all the polo rules from the different governing bodies in polo: HPA, AAP, FIP , USPA and then I read the simplified versions available on different sites. I keep up with what is going on in the polo world on websites such as Polo+10 , Polo Times, Living Polo , PoloLine and I watch matches on ChukkerTV and The Polo Channel . I really enjoy watching games online, of course it’s not as exciting as being there on the sidelines, but when trying to understand the game, you see much more from the drones and excellent filming equipment those guys use and then you have fun commentators like Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz explaining all the plays and predicting the outcomes. It really is very helpful. I am also at the moment reading Sunny Hale’s book “Let’s talk polo” which is the first in a series of books she is writing for the polo player at any level and with a dream to conquer. This book is really inspiring me and Sunny is such an inspiration to lady polo players everywhere.
- Youtube polo videos. Living in the 21st century means that you can find anything on Google and if you want to learn something, from the “whip and nae nae” to crochet, you can be sure to find a youtube tutorial video for it. I created this website from a youtube tutorial knowing absolutely NOTHING about how to make a website beforehand. So I am pretty sure I can learn quite a bit about playing polo on there as well. I have found some great teachers and mentors on youtube and here are a few of my favorites: Polo Gringo hasn’t been active in a long time, but I really enjoy their videos and find them helpful. Polo In is another great channel by professional polo player and umpire Ignacio Fernandez Llorente, with all-around tips and tricks and he teaches you everything from how to position yourself to how to set up a shot, a little warning: this channel is very addictive and once you start watching the videos hours will fly by without you even noticing.
- Last but not least we need to remember our best friends, the horses. It really is too hot to ride here in Bahrain at the moment and I am sure Piso (my friend’s horse, who I have gotten pretty attached to) thinks so as well and appreciates not having a hot saddle pad, saddle and a heavy person on him, but there is so much more to riding than the actual act of riding. It is a bond for the rider and the horse as well, so it is important to spend some quality time with your four-legged friends and go for walks, even though it’s hot and humid and uncomfortable.
So that’s my little list of things that keep me polo busy when I can’t be near actual polo. Let me know in the comments field what you do, I would love some inspiration and advice on more things to improve my polo while I’m here in Bahrain.