The dark clouds of neo coronavirus are threatening life as we have known it. Danger, loss, fear, anxiety and grief are some of the feelings that people are grappling with. Nations are trying hard to flatten the curve of Covid-19. Lockdowns, quarantines, work/study from home are the new normal. There are no answers yet, as to when and how the dark days will come to an end. The ray of hope seems too far, and the tunnel too long. It’s important to focus on the positives too.

The world is together in this. Social distancing and quarantine will help to drive away this threat to an extent, till the time a vaccine is found. We wondered how the Polo players across the world are taking up this challenge of staying away from their favourite stables and the fields. In a recent feature, we brought to notice how animals so far have not been infected by the virus.

It has been largely advised by doctors and health organizations that those who have the symptoms of COVID-19 or are under isolation must not go near any pets. Also, as a precautionary measure, it is advised to wear a mask and sanitize your hands before going near the horses and the Polo ponies. In this scenario, how is the world of Polo tackling social distancing and quarantine is what we decided to look at. We got in touch with a number of Polo players from different parts of the world and their responses throw light on how they are coping with the situation.

Polo player Melissa Ganzi said: “These are difficult times. On March 17, 2020, we stopped all Polo at the GCPC and The World Polo League (WPL) for a 14-day period. At the end of this, we will re-evaluate the situation. It seems likely that we will continue to put Polo on hold.” Talking about the health of the grooms and the horses, she said: “We are lucky that our grooms live on-site where the horses are. The horses continue regular exercise and are under excellent care. We have posted COVID-19 precautions., and distributed hand sanitizers to all the staff. The WPL is taking abundant caution to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all our fans, players, families, and staff. We maintain this as a top priority and understand it is an especially critical time. We are following the guidelines set in place by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention closely.” She mentioned some of the precautions they are following: • Washing of hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being at a public place, blowing of nose, coughing, or sneezing • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands • Stay home if unwell, except to get medical care • Covering mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing, then immediately washing hands for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer. She added that the Town of Palm Beach in South Florida has called for a town-wide curfew starting March 20 from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. as part of an effort to slow or stop the possible spread of coronavirus in Palm Beach County.

Nick Sherring, who is currently in Pushkar, India, said: “I’m stuck in my hotel room in Pushkar and spend time doing yoga, breath work and creativity by drawing or reading.” Matthew Perry from England too connected with us and talked about social distancing. He said: “At the moment I am not socialising at all and restricting my visits to my house and the stables to see my horses.” While many of the Polo players are maintaining distance with the ponies and avoiding to go to the stables so as not to infect the animal, Phil Seller shared with us some light videos of his ponies resting in the farms and going for a brief walk in the morning.

Shaurya Vikram, a young player from India, said: “From what we’ve heard, horses are not at risk with this virus. So that only leaves people working around horses who need to ensure their personal hygiene and keep exposure in check. My family and I are huge movie buffs, so we’re armed with the Big Four of Netflix, Prime, Hotstar and Hulu. I also do an hour’s session of core workout. All of this comprises pull-ups with variations, crunches, planks with variations, kettlebell lifting and push-ups. It is essential that we do not go out and compromise the safety of ours and other’s. So, unless absolutely necessary, I don’t go out. Mostly, I video call my friends and family, and try to see the good instead of the bad.”

Another player, Ashley Parekh, said: “Because of the current situation, nobody’s able to go out. But I feel staying fit should not be compromised at all. So, every evening I do a bit of stretching, sometimes run up and down the stairs to maintain stamina and follow aerobics on YouTube. My ponies are at the farm. Every morning they get their usual training and even though they’re not able to play matches, the stablemen practice chukkers on them. I’m also taking a few online courses and have started painting recently. I video call my friends once in a while, binge watch my favourite series, and bake sometimes. Hope everyone is safe and this quarantine-bit stops soon.” Lokendra Singh said: “My family and I are doing great, hope everything is fine with others’ too! The situation is crucial for India right now, and I am doing my best in maintaining social distancing and taking all the necessary hygiene measures, both at home and at the farm.” Talking about how the farms are taken care of, he said: “Workers at the farm have been given strict instructions like maintaining social distance, wearing masks, washing and sanitizing their hands regularly. The farm was sanitized thoroughly as soon as the news broke and the horses are being taken care of by ensuring the sanitization of both horses and the farm along with proper diet and regular practice.” Talking about how the game has been affected, Singh said: “Our Polo tournament was cancelled but it was a necessary step. To deal with the social distancing I am working out at home and practicing Cycle Polo. I am making the most out of this break and counting on my blessings is one of the things I am doing.”

Javyir Gohil from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, said: “The moment I heard about the curfew and spreading of the coronavirus, I got back from Jaipur to my farm at Bhavnagar. I am glad I took the decision fast. Now me and my horses are at my farm where the Gohilwad Polo Club is. The Club is closed right now and no member is allowed either. It was a big challenge for me to keep my 20 horses fit in this lockdown situation. So, I have decided to stay at the farm for a month and train my new horses, and put the Polo playing horses on rest. Nobody comes in at the farm and grooms are only allowed for essentials. I have 20 horses, 2 dogs and 4 cows at the farm and I need to make sure that each one of them is fine and healthy. We are supporting the government’s efforts in order to fight this pandemic.”

Getting in touch with Monique van Haarst on the similar page, she told us, “What a situation are we in, but it is for everyone the same: stay safe, stay at home. Unfortunately the racecourse where our horses are stabled is shut. All lessons are stopped, nobody can go in or out to protect our grooms, and so also our horses to prevent Corona. It’s hard not to be able to be with our stars which has given their all during the polo season till the season got canceled. But health is more important and let us all just look forward to that this virus will go quickly and we can go back to our “normal” lives. Stay positive and make the best of this time. We are blessed and fortunate not having to go outside and fight a war. Instead the possibility is given to spend time with family, go back to ourselves, meditate, work out, read and more than that where we usually don’t have the time for or not take the time for.” Extending her thankfulness for the grooms she added, “A big thanks for all the wonderful grooms who take the responsibility to give the best care of the horses right now. Hopefully till soon out in the open and on the back of the horse again!”

Heading further in our quest, we reached to Manola F Llorente, a +6 handicap polo player from Argentina. Commenting on the situation, he said, “I am in Argentina at the moment. Here we are in lock down so the horses are in the field enjoying some time off!! I am at home with my family enjoying time with them after the Indian polo season. To beat social distance we spend a lot of time watching Netflix!! Hopefully we all go through this difficult time.” The world is together in this battle with Covid-19, and it’s important for us to do our bit by staying at home, and staying safe!

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