El Venado Polo Days – Polo School in Argentina
One of the main purposes of my trip to Argentina is, of course, to learn to play polo and share my experience (also one of the main purposes of PoloPeoplePlaces.com really). My calendar is full of plans to watch, learn and experience every side of the polo life here in Argentina. I had heard great things about El Venado Polo School, so it was high on my list of places to visit and experience myself. So I packed up my bag and headed south, towards a little village called Pila (not to be confused with Pilar, where I spent most of my time in Argentina).
It was a 3-hour drive for me, which for Argentinians is referred to as “around the corner”, but for a Dane, it is across the country. Anyway, it was totally worth it! Already whilst driving through the alleyway of trees I felt peace and at ease, it was as if any worry and anxiety, just disappeared. I was welcomed by Federico Cendoya, the owner of El Venado, and Stephie Price, who I already knew from Guards the last few seasons. It is always great to be greeted by a familiar face.
Federico has that kindness and warmth about him that immediately makes you feel at home, he welcomes you like family, I felt like I was visiting an uncle. The house as well feels like a true family country home, and it is! Federico and Ines have many children and grandchildren, who all occasionally drop by for a weekend at the farm, to play polo, ride horses and just enjoy each others company and share stories.
I got settled in my very cosy room and then it was time to get on a horse and I was excited! I told Fede how I needed to focus a lot on my riding because it is what holds me back the most, I get scared when going fast and feel that I don’t have control of the horse or my balance in place. I know it will take many hours in the saddle to get that, and the muscles, but the technique is key.
Out we went and for 90 glorious minutes, we rode around. First in trot until I got comfortable (who on earth feels comfortable in trot?!?! for some reason, me, rising trot anyway.) then canter, around and around in large circles. Once warmed up Fede wanted to see my hitting technique, what I had learned so far from my various teachers. He encouraged me and said I had talent and I had been taught good things, but he did adjust my grip on the mallet slightly. Twisting the mallet a little, so the “backbone” of the shaft would rest on the bone of my index finger. It felt super awkward in the beginning and my hand would automatically go back to how it used to hold the mallet until Fede noticed it and corrected me once more. After a while, I got used to this new grip and I was no longer hitting all my balls to the left, they were now going straight! And at the end of the session, my wrist wasn’t hurting as it usually does.
Stick and balling sure works up an appetite, luckily the two cooks had prepared a delicious feast for our lunch, which we enjoyed while exchanging stories of our adventures around the world, with and without polo. This is one of the best parts of the polo holidays, the people you meet and the friendships that are born from it.
Three days passed in a flash! When you ride, eat, sleep and repeat time tends to fly by. On the second day, I had n extraordinary experience, we herded the young ponies from a field a couple of kilometres away, back to the farm, to then separate a few and herd the others back again. It was amazing, and such a push out of my comfort zone, we were galloping down fields and tracks, maneuvering around the young horses (which were just as scared as I was, haha), well you can see for yourself in this little video (putting the volume up makes it even more fun):
By the end of my stay, I didn’t want to leave and I had improved A LOT! My rising canter and even my sitting canter were way more smooth, I was doing full offside swings properly and the balls were going straight and far with very little effort (see that’s the whole trick, if you get the technique right, you don’t actually use any strength) and I even started to learn the near side shot (in a slow walk).
Check out the vlog I did about my days at El Venado Polo Days
I could honestly have stayed there for a month! But I had to get back to the city and get on with all my other plans. El Venado is definitely a place I will go back to and can highly recommend it for a polo holiday, and I am not the only one. They have every level of horse for riders at different stages, from beginner to more seasoned (I rode 4 different horses on the 3 days, as I progressed) and Fede knows all the tricks. Riding at El Venado is like an “all you can eat” buffet, you can ride as much as you want, they have a lot of horses and they all need exercise, so if you want to ride 3 hours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, that is exactly what you will do.
If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to e-mail me right here.
*Disclaimer: This is a collaboration post. I was invited to spend three days at El Venado Polo Days in order to review the experience, my opinion is true and unbiased.