Monday, October 1, 2012

POLO Sunday

Best. Day. Ever.

Well, one of the best days since I've gotten here. I went with the polo team for their polo "taster" day. Taster days are where people who are interested in joining a society go and see what the club is all about. It was overcast and windy but it did not rain thank goodness. We got there and were split into groups. Now Saul, one of the captains had told the coaches that I have ridden Western before. Which is true. I have ridden a fair amount of western and my good friend does barrel racing so I have tried it. Apparently, riding polo is like riding western. So the coaches were thrilled and asked to see my barrel racing pictures. They then said they were going to put me on a team horse to which I responded that as long as it stops that would be fine. I was so excited to get back on a horse again! Back in the states I am on the High Point University Equestrian team but that is equitation and my mom is a Dressage rider so I have grown up with dressage, but never polo. Throw equitation and dressage and jumping  out the window people. Polo is completely different. I spent awhile on a wooden horse, learning how to hit the ball properly and how to move and swing in the saddle. The I went and stood on a small table and practiced hitting with a mallet. The guy that retrieved my balls helped me and introduced himself a Graham ( I think that is correct spelling, if not, I apologize). he is in the military and I love military type things so it was cool to pick his brain, especially since I have never met a British military person. We both soon discovered that if he kept talking to me and kept distracting me I hit the ball really well. If not, I whiffed horribly. First time I hit the ball well I shouted, "Touchdown!" to which Graham replied, "There is no touchdown in polo." To which I said, "I know but I miss my NFL too much so let me have my fun." From then on I had a lot of touchdowns.

Finally we were able to get on horses. My horse that I got assigned was named Roxy, and ex-racehorse thoroughbred. Dark bay with no markings, she was so sweet. But boy did she love to run! My group went out with the instructor onto the pitch where we trotted and canter around him in a circle, while he sat on his horse and gave us corrections on our posture. In polo you have to sit a bit deeper in the saddle, with your butt tucked under; but you also have to be able to lean forward and stay loose so you can move at a moment's notice. Polo horses are very well trained and so when we went to do flying lead changes, I just had to shift my weight slightly and BAM! lead change. Polo horses also neck rein, and you have your reins in one hand so that is where my western skills came in handy. A lot of people had trouble with the one hand and the position because they had never ridden western and a few of them almost fell off (myself included). We then went to a fence and did stops and turns. Basically we galloped down the fence line, stopped, whirled around and came back. When you stop a polo horse you sit like you're riding a Harley motorcycle: feet down and out in front and butt as deep in the saddle as you can get. Because when you check your reins to stop the horse, they do stop. As in butt down, head up, sliding stop. So much fun! Afterwards, when we dismounted, and I asked my instructor about position in the saddle he said I had a good position and a very natural feel for the horse's movements. More brownie points! We then went over rules and regulation, and tack and ended with a BBQ and going to a pub for a drink. I then went back to school, took a VERY hot shower and fell into my bed. Good thing I got my homework done early!

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