Students are making strides at a new school in Wellington . The International Polo Club Palm Beach debuted The Polo School at IPC last December, making polo instruction available to people who desire to participate in the sport, but do not have access to resources needed for playing.
“We offer lessons at affordable rates compared to other polo clubs,” said resident instructor Gates Gridley. “I think that’s a huge reason we have such a high quantity of lessons. We average about three to four lessons a day and have a stable of 12 experienced horses.”
Mentored by Joe Casey, a former 7-goaler, Gridley brings many years of experience and training to the school.
Students of all ages, riding levels and disciplines are accepted – from those with no equestrian experience to seasoned players who want to fine-tune their skills.
The school’s newest additions are two riding simulators, which are fully encaged mechanical horses that students ride under Gridley’s tutelage. A multispeed treadmill is positioned on each side of a mechanical horse and a ball is pitched to the rider. This allows the student to practice hitting the ball at varying velocities from both sides of a horse. The training ponies also vary speed through five gaits, from a walk to a gallop.
A beginner can sit with the simulator at a walk while learning the basics of polo, such as how to handle a stick. Seasoned players can have the momentum of the ball and the pace of the mechanical mount at top speeds to get a vigorous workout.
“The success of The Polo School at IPC this season has far exceeded our expectations and the feedback we’ve received has been tremendously positive, said Equestrian Sport Productions CEO Mark Bellissimo, the school’s founder. “We’re getting ready to launch a low-goal league for students of the school to gain actual game experience and get them further involved in the sport.”
Gates said that the low-goal league being formed would consist of the school’s students as well as other amateur players from the surrounding area. There are no tryouts; as long as a student has reached a certain skill level, they can participate in league play. Practices have already begun in preparation for forming the league, which will begin playing in late March.
Lessons, which are by appointment, are offered by hourly rate, and packages of 10 lessons are available at a discounted rate.