Equestrian sport A family affair: Leopold Ludorf on polo, the Coupe de Luxembourg and plans for the future

The traditional Coupe de Luxembourg took place in the Polo about a week ago. The Ludorf family, who compete together in one team, was also there. The 17-year-old Leopold in particular stands out as a real young talent.

Polo is more of an unknown sport. It is astonishing that in this discipline young players can easily compete with older ones, that unreservedly weak opponents compete against strong ones and that women fight men on an equal footing. Also unique is the fact that polo originated more than 2,500 years ago and that the Mesopotamians even made it the game of their kings. 

You no longer need an aristocratic title to compete. You need passion to play, enthusiasm comes from watching, and that worldwide. On this basis, the “Roude Léiw Polo Club” was founded as the first club in Germany with reference to Luxembourg’s heraldic animal. About a week and a half ago, the club organized the Coupe de Luxembourg for the twelfth time. Four teams always compete, French against local. The tournament takes place on the estate of the Ferme d’Apremont. This facility also hosts the prestigious Open de France, among others. With the exception of Great Britain, probably the most beautiful polo in Europe is played here, just a tee away from the magnificent Chantilly Castle.

The horse as a best friend

The fact that father, mother and son compete together in one of the local teams is particularly remarkable. The Ludorf family does the honor. From next year, the 13-year-old daughter will also be part of the party. The 17-year-old son Leopold in particular stands out as a real young talent. In Germany, he enjoys a +1 player handicap on a scale ranging from -2 to +10. This makes him the highest ranked player in Luxembourg. He is also one of the best players in his age group in Germany and was even named the most valuable young player by the German Polo Association in 2021. The proud parents also organize the tournament. So it’s a real family affair.

Leopold Ludorf is the highest ranked polo player in Luxembourg 

But before a general gallop begins, a competition begins with tactical agreements. Further preparations then concern the horses. It’s all about putting on the bridle and protecting the trotter’s legs with gaiters, bandages or bell boots. The animals are also groomed and cleaned. To ensure that no racket can get caught, all manes are shaved and tails are bandaged. A player, in turn, protects himself with boots, leather knee pads, helmet and gloves. It is also remarkable that technical developments are hardly accepted compared to many other sports. Sports equipment is therefore still used in its original form.

In general, the quality of a polo player is measured by physical fitness, the ability to anticipate and react, and team spirit. “During the game you are absolutely focused and experience a constant adrenaline rush. This results in a kind of freedom trip. Above all, the control of the horse must be perfect. In fact, due to their reaction times and turning skills, the thoroughbreds are responsible for 80 percent of the performance of the team, the riders only for the remaining 20 percent,” explains Leopold: “Most of the mares are used. These are usually more curious. You have to build up a lot of trust in these sensitive animals. Ultimately, this happens as with humans: you spend a lot of time with them, treating them gently and with respect. In the end, the horse has to become the ‘best friend’. This is the only way for the animal to push itself decisively against the opposing horse. This is the only way it will read the game autonomously, keep an eye on the ball and have fun playing the game.”

The final between the “Ludorf Team” and the French team La Palmeraie finally fulfilled all expectations. Tactically, the players neutralized each other again and again, but there were still a lot of chances on both sides. Many were also fended off very skillfully, so that a high level of play prevailed throughout. But above all, this extremely balanced encounter was extremely exciting right to the end.

Unfortunately, a Red Lion player made a big mistake at the last second, which the opponent promptly used to score 3:2. “Because I know the opponents personally, I knew it was going to be complicated. Still, it was great fun. The gameplay was very fair and balanced. Unfortunately, each of us missed several balls, we didn’t all have our best day and that cost us the win,” Leopold says, looking back on the final. “My tactical role was low-key, watching the game, neutralizing potential threats and playing with my head rather than strength. Unfortunately, it didn’t add up.” 

When asked about his plans for the future, Leopold says: “I can already see my future as a professional in this sport. However, it takes many helping hands to achieve this; you have to breed horses, buy them, sell them, set up and manage a business… It’s difficult to make a living from this sport. Maybe that’s why I’ll be able to slip into this role in Germany or especially in France, since the Roude Léiw Polo Club is unfortunately too small. The time after graduating from high school will probably show whether I’m up to all these challenges.”

Boots, helmet and stick are part of the basic equipment of a polo player

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