I can without a doubt say that Polo Valley in Sotogrande is one of my favorite places on earth. Everything from the enchanting nature, the view, the people, the horses, including the new addition to the family little Soto, the house, everything about the place just makes my heart leap with joy.
I stayed at Polo Valley for a week last summer and loved every minute, the only bad part was having to leave. Now coming back was the same feeling of being welcomed with open arms. Like receiving a great big warm hug. Some of the staff there have changed since I was there, but the essence of Polo Valley is still the same. Everyone is helpful, kind and welcoming. This is the little video I made last summer:
I was greeted by Marta (a very sweet girl, who I already knew from last year) and Kat (the new intern, who is as bubbly and happy as a puppy). We then walked out to the stick and ball field and met Tom, the new polo manager and coach.
Lulu, a beautiful bay mare (who I also rode a bit last year) was ready for me to get on. I remember her style, she is a little machine, but also very easy. When I ride her she is very calm and I need to really push her to get up in a canter and stay there. But when one of the pro’s rides her, she flies. I clearly remember playing a chukker last year, when Alvaro, one of the coaches, was on her, and I was so confused. I was like “Are you completely sure that is the same horse I was on this morning?” haha.
Lulu is just a great horse and she was lovely on this Tuesday morning as well. Tom got me started on just walking around and stick and balling on my own and he was watching to see what I did. He immediately observed that I have been instructed by many different coaches, which is very true. I have had 8 different teachers in 3 continents and all very sporadically, except in Dubai I managed to be somewhat consistent.
Also, it had been almost two months since my last time on a polo pony and it just always feels like being back at square one. Awkwardly getting on the horse, finding the right positions to place legs and other loose limbs that are suddenly very much in the way of everything. But after a while the limbs know where to place themselves, and it feels comfortable again, especially when you know the horse and trust it.
Tom corrected me in many things, but the most important being my half-seat, my legs are too straight and I am not getting up from the saddle enough. Apparently, I have also been hitting the ball in the wrong spot and again trying to hit it too hard, or swinging too fast rather. It really is all about pendulum and timing.
An hour went by very fast and my right arm was definitely an overcooked string of spaghetti at the end of it, but oh my, how I love being on a pony swinging a mallet, especially when I actually hit the ball properly ; )
At the end I did a few rounds of canter and Lulu got her gears in place. It is truly a magical feeling, when you sync with the horse and it feels like you are flying, wind in your hair, the sound of hooves on the grass, the soft yet heavy breathing of the horse and your own heart pounding in tune with it. No wonder it is addictive and I am already longing to get back on, and return to Polo Valley asap! Make sure to sign up below to receive blogposts right in your e-mail inbox!