Polo Valley – Living a Polo Dream
When Polo Valley invited me to come and experience the Residential Polo Course in order to review it I was ecstatic and over the moon! I had been eyeing their Instagram account and daydreaming of the beautiful place for a while, so when the opportunity arose I was on a plane to Malaga immediately.
I arrived at Polo Valley in Sotogrande this past Sunday, and immediately felt at home. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly and the settings are just gorgeous. Alvaro, the polo manager and pro took me on a tour of the premises. It was late afternoon, the wind was blowing softly, there were a few clouds in the sky and the temperature was just perfect. I felt an almost overwhelming feeling of absolute joy, of being exactly where I was meant to be and totally at peace.
Alvaro told me about how Polo Valley started from a passion for polo and to fulfil a need, since there is nothing like it in the area. Although Sotogrande is known for the big polo tournaments at the main polo club Santa Maria, it is quite intimidating and there was no place to learn for a beginner. So Christian and Alvaro created this little polo haven, where people of all ages and skill levels can come and learn to play in a safe and relaxed environment. I sure am grateful for that!
During dinner with the team, I emphasized the fact that I am a total beginner (after the wild beach ride in Fano I will never tell anyone I know how to ride until I am a master at it ;)). The other guest for the week is Larissa, who loves Polo Valley so much, this is her third time here this year!
Monday morning I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm rang, totally excited for the days ahead. I couldn’t wait to get out on that beautiful green field riding one of the gorgeous polo ponies and swinging a mallet.
Off to the field we went and got up on our ponies. I had the pleasure of mounting Nevadita, who is really sweet and calm and I felt very safe on her. At first I just walked around to get a feel, and practiced swinging my mallet, with Alvaro constantly watching and encouraging me when I did well and which things to improve. I tried a bit of trot and then agreed with Alvaro that what I really wanted to focus on was my riding. Often when I try to hit the ball and miss, it is the part of having to control a horse and my balance, which distracts me and messes me up.
I only started riding a year ago and it has been a very inconsistent learning experience, so I definitely have a long way to go still. We went to the exercise track, where I wouldn’t have to worry about where the horse was going as long as she was moving forward. We worked on the rising trot, which is all about synergy and connecting with the horse. Moving with the horse, following her stride, up and down, up and down, in a smooth and controlled rhythm.
Then I started cantering a bit and tried to do the same thing, a rising canter, but apparently I had no clue how to do that, haha! So that became one of the main missions for these days, learn the rising canter. It is difficult because not only do you need balance and rhythm, but you also need strength in your thighs, which you mostly only get from riding.
That same afternoon it was time for round two of ponies. We played 4 chukkers. I had not ever played four chukkers before. When I played my first chukker, I only did two and as exciting as it was, I was exhausted. We played 2 on 2, so Annie and Larissa against Alvaro and I.
I was excited and a tiny bit anxious, but Alvaro and Annie made me feel very comfortable and confident that I could do this. And I could. Sure, I missed a lot of balls, I was still trotting on Lulu whilst others cantered to the other end of the field.
At one point I almost fell off when Larissa bumped me slightly from the right. That must have looked hilarious.. First I lost my left stirrup and started sliding that way, so I compensated to the right, but went too far so almost slid off that side, then I went for the last resort and just hugged the horse. The belly with my legs and neck with my arms, and somehow managing to stay on and they all applauded me. Another small victory, haha!. Alvaro and I lost majorly, but we had a lot of fun. When I later watched my GoPro video, I could hear myself giggling and just having a blast.
That’s the thing about polo, even when you don’t know very much or do it very well, you still get the feeling of it. When you swing the mallet in a pendulum motion and effortlessly hit the ball on the sweet spot and it goes forward, it’s amazing, even if it only goes a few meters and your seat isn’t right and the technique needs a lot of tweaking, it’s the feeling. The feeling you get in the core of your bones and soul of perfect harmony, even when it’s not perfect. Anyone out there who has had a polo lesson knows what I am talking about, and anyone who hasn’t needs to come join me right now!
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