Gazette staff learn how to play polo in lead up to Polo International

In the lead up to the Polo International between Australia and England on April 6, Hawkesbury Gazette sales representative Daniel Wood and myself were invited by Windsor Polo Club down to their fields to learn how to play the sport.

The experience was one that we jumped at as neither of us had ever ridden a horse before, let alone played polo.

Riverland polo: Vini Rivard, Daniel Wood, Luke O'Leary, Finn Coleman and Gonzalo Bonilla. Picture: Krystyna Pollard

 Riverland polo: Vini Rivard, Daniel Wood, Luke O’Leary, Finn Coleman and Gonzalo Bonilla. Picture: Krystyna Pollard

We went down to the fields and met our teachers for the day, Riverlands Polo Director Luke O’Leary and coaches Vini Rivard and Gonzalo Bonilla.

We started off with the basics, hitting balls on the ground with shortened mallets, around 30 inches long.

Luke taught us how to swing straight, use the momentum of the mallet head – as in golf – and not to bash the balls.

The balls themselves were made of plastic and were warped from being hit around so much.

Once we had learned our fore and backhands, we got straight up onto horses.

I jumped up onto my beautiful polo pony, Vinny, and he was really calm.

Later on, I realised that Vinny was so well behaved that although he could gallop, he didn’t let me go too fast at all.

We rode around for about five minutes getting used to being on horseback before we were given our full length mallets that were about 50 to 53 inches long.

Luke jumped up on a horse and showed us what to do while Vini and Gonzalo walked with us making sure we were swinging correctly.

Friendly Competition: Finn and Dan have a bit of a fight for the ball. Picture: Krystyna Pollard

 Friendly Competition: Finn and Dan have a bit of a fight for the ball. Picture: Krystyna Pollard

When you hit the ball you must get your head straight over it, keep your arm straight and let the mallet naturally turn sideways.

The mallet was just an extension of our arms.

You had to swing close to the horse but not hit them. And you had to allow the head to do most of the work, using the momentum of the horse going forward and the mallet falling.

Dan and I rode around for about 45 minutes picking up the pace slowly but surely until we got our confidence up.

I found that my backhand was stronger and more accurate than my forehand, which isn’t uncommon as coach Vini is the same.

The day was topped off by some beers, watermelon and olives with the coaches.

This was a great experience and one that I can’t recommend enough to everyone.

Thank you to Windsor Polo Club and the great coaches at Riverlands Polo.

Windsor Polo Club will play host to the Polo International on Saturday, April 6.

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