‘How do I improve my polo?’
It’s a question we get time and time again at the Toronto Polo School and while each and every person that asks said question will have a unique set of things that they can work on to improve their game, from hitting and defense to strategy and positioning and more the list is endless of things for polo players to work on. There is, however, one thing that everyone, beginners and experienced players alike, can work on which will have a positive effect on their game and it’s something that most polo players are guilty of neglecting. Riding.
It’s so simple, it’s hard to believe! But, when you think about it, it makes sense. You’ve heard us say that ponies account for 80% of a player’s ability to play the game, so naturally, a player’s ability to ride said pony also accounts for a huge chunk of their ability to play the game. Not to mention, being a better rider means getting more out of your pony and the best players know how to get everything out of their ponies.
Great players can also play their handicaps off of any kind of horse; good, bad, old or green…these guys and gals know how to make the most of their ponies and it all comes down to…yep you guessed it…their riding.
The best players have great partnerships with their ponies. When they’re out on the field they play as one. But that kind of relationship doesn’t develop from game to game or from the odd ride once a month. The pony has to learn to be comfortable with you in all settings; if you only ever sit on your horse during a game, they’ll begin to associate you with the stress and nerves that they feel on the field and they’ll never relax with you. Those great horse and player relationships develop from hours and hours together, hours and hours spent riding, schooling, and stick and balling. The pony learns to relax and so does the rider; they begin to speak the same language and they develop a trust in each other…so the next time they take to the field they’re on the same wavelength. These relationships aren’t without their bad days either and part of your ability as the rider is to accept half the blame when things don’t go right, because it’s not always the pony’s fault. So next time you start to think that the pony wouldn’t stop or that the pony kept riding over the ball consider that maybe, just maybe, you played a part in that too.
Speaking of the horses; they aren’t machines (even though that’s sometimes the Spanish word used to describe a talented polo pony). They, like us, are living creatures who have good days and bad days and days where they just aren’t feeling it. And you have a responsibility to these big living creatures that you’re asking to help you run around a giant field chasing a tiny white ball. Your responsibility to them is to ride them to the best of your ability; and that means not yanking and balancing on the big piece of metal that you put in their mouth and helping them to keep their balance every time you ask for a stop or turn. So if you don’t want to work on your riding for you…work on it for your ponies…because they deserve you at your very best
And we know some of you are out there thinking I know how to ride, I don’t need to work on my riding but even the best players and those of us that are lucky enough to spend hours a day on polo ponies can admit that we’ve all been put in our places by a difficult horse or a good horse having a bad day. Just when you think you’ve seen it all horses will always find a way to put you in your place and show you something you haven’t yet learned.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a big difference between staying on a horse and actually riding it. And if you’re sitting there saying I know how to stop, go and turn…isn’t that all there is to it? Think again, once you’ve got the basic commands down you can start to fine tune them; tighter rollbacks, picking up the correct lead (lead what?!) when you pick up your canter, stopping properly with the hind end, getting comfortable at faster and faster speeds…the list goes on. The minute you think you know it all you’ll meet a horse who will show you just how much more you have to learn and that’s the beautiful thing about riding and polo…you’re never done learning.
It’s really easy to sign up to play and arrive at the field to have your ponies looking fit and ready to play. But if you find yourself wondering why some of your contemporaries are improving and you’re not…chances are it all comes down to riding. Maybe they’re putting in those hours away from the field; spending hours riding and schooling their horses in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, around and around in circles all the while improving their balance, their trust and relationship with their ponies, and fine tuning all those skills. Practice and riding may not be the glamorous part of the sport…but they certainly separate the good from the greats. And we at the Toronto Polo School know that everyone can be great, it just takes a little practice and a lot of time in the saddle!
What happens when a polo-playing cowboy goes up against a former NHL goalie? The Mighty Duel.
There are two types of cold climate polo players in this world; diehards and sun seekers. The sun seekers are those players that are lucky enough to be able to follow the sun for days, weeks or months at a time when winter descends at home and the cold weather makes playing just a little bit less enjoyable. These players have found a way to carve out space in their busy schedules to head south and keep their field polo skills sharp and their polo addictions fed.
But for the vast majority of us, save for a week here and a few days there, heading south for the winter just isn’t a feasible way to keep us playing polo through the dark, cold winter days. And that’s where arena polo comes in.
Arena polo is a hotly contested topic in the polo world with many players coming out either in favour or against the version of the sport. Nearly every player can admit that yes, arena polo is not field polo. It’s played in, well, arenas for starters not under a warm sun on a massive grass field so naturally it doesn’t feature the same adrenaline rush and it’s played in the cold of winter so yes, sometimes players will find their extremities going numb and their eyes watering from the cold air. But if you can look past the criticisms of arena polo you’ll find that there are few advantages to playing arena polo and so long as you accept that it’s definitely not field polo it can be a fun way to keep playing through the long cold winter.
1. It can keep your horses in playing shape
Depending on where in the world you live, winter can seem like it’s never going to end, and in some places, winter may actually be longer than the field polo season. For cold climate players, playing arena polo is the only way to keep polo skills sharp and horses in shape. And while, yes, it doesn’t hurt to give your horses a few months break, playing arena polo even in late winter as a way to get your horses’ fitness up so that they are ready for the field when the snow eventually melts is a good way to ensure that you can make the most of the field season because no one wants to be fighting with fresh and unfit horses when the field polo season does finally kick off.
2. It keeps you playing
It’s not perfect, as we said above, it can be bitterly cold and there isn’t the same rush when you hit the arena ball but it does keep you swinging a mallet and especially for beginners it keeps you learning so you don’t have to start all over again in the spring. Besides, what’s that quote? ‘No time spent in the saddle is wasted’.
3. It improves your riding
Because it’s played in a much more confined space than field polo with solid walls rather than tiny boards that can easily be jumped over, arena polo can really improve your riding and balance. After all, it takes less than half the time it takes outside to get from one end of the arena to the other; now add the game to that and equals a lot of stopping and turning and if you’re not balanced on your horse all those tricky maneuvers will have a way of letting you know…and fast. There’s no getting away with anything in the arena. Whereas outside, horsepower and speed play a role in the success of any particular player, inside it’s nearly impossible to outrun your opponent because within seconds you’ll both hit a wall and have to stop and turn. Take your game inside and you’ll see just how much you got away with outside on that big huge grass field when it came to your balance and riding.
4. It can help to teach young horses to play the game
At the Toronto Polo School, we often use arena polo not only as a way to teach our beginner players how to play the game but also our polo ponies in training. With the arena being a controlled environment it’s a good way to test a pony’s skills before unleashing it outside on the field, very much the same logic that is used for beginner players. And the similarities between ponies in training and players in training don’t stop there, the arena teaches the same fundamentals of balance, stopping and turning to the ponies that it teaches to players. A young pony that has played an arena season will be a much more maneuverable and experienced horse when it’s unleashed onto those big grass fields come spring.
5. It teaches you to stop and think
Outside, a player that is a strong rider and comfortable at speed will be able to get away with a lot assuming they can somewhat reliably hit the ball. The cushion of an extra few acres makes all the difference. However; in the arena, it’s a different story, no matter how strong a rider a player may be, they still have to be able to think through plays and their moves before they make them, we at the Toronto Polo School call it ‘stopping and thinking’. The confined space means that there is always an opponent within reach and suddenly a nice tail shot won’t be enough to get you out of trouble. Not to mention, assuming you follow the rules and stay safe the name of the game is control not speed. And the number one rule we have when you get possession of the ball is to stop what you’re doing (maybe not literally) and look around; determine where your teammates and opponents are, think about what your options are and then make your move. And there you have it; the stop and think.
6. It teaches you the short game
In the same sense that it teaches you to ‘stop and think’ arena polo also has a way of teaching you the short game and forcing you to improve your short game. Most players when they stick and ball outside only really focus on long shots because it feels (and sounds) so good to hit the ball. Skills like stick handling, dribbling and turning the ball rarely get worked on but can make all the difference in the arena. Play a few arena games and suddenly you’ll find yourself practicing those crucial skills for your next match. As we said above, the name of the game is control, and ugly goals totally count in the arena; meaning checking your horse and walking that ball into the goal on the end of your stick is totally legal and very effective. Not to mention, given that tail shots in the arena more often than not mean that the ball ends up on the end of your opponent’s mallet; turning the ball is a valid option that keeps the ball in your possession the whole time…control, control, control.
7. Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
In the arena, it all boils down to strategy and the player that can best control their horse, the ball, their opponent and the game best will succeed the most. Because of the confined space of the arena, getting into plays and making sure that you’re always in position is a lot harder than it is outside because everything happens faster. Not to mention, being in position is even more important inside than it is outside because an open player practically equals a goal thanks to the confined space of the arena. Believe us when we say that you’ll know when you’re out of position in the arena. The upside to playing a winter of arena polo is that when you do get back outside you should be able to better recognize plays and react to them because suddenly you have more time and space. Consider the arena your crash course to polo strategy, your field polo game will thank you.
When approached the right way; with an open mind and a goal towards improving your field polo skills, arena polo can be a productive and educational way to while away those long cold winter days. We all love field polo, it will always be our favorite, but arena polo will do for now…and as long as we’re galloping around swinging a mallet we’re happy, how about you?
The holidays are fast approaching and if you’ve got a polo player on your list you’re probably scratching your head wondering what to get them (hence why you’ve clicked on this post).
We’ll let you in on a little secret…polo players tend to have a bit of a one-track mind (something you’ve probably already noticed) making your task of finding them the perfect gift that much easier. All you have to do is think 'polo' but what makes a good gift when it comes to polo?
If you’re not a polo player yourself and aren’t well versed in the sport you’re probably at a bit of a loss when it comes to what to get them. Not to fear! We’re here with your cheat sheet of Christmas gifts for all the polo players on your list.
If there’s one thing polo players can never have enough of, it’s equipment. We’re always in need of something, whether it’s replacing something old or needing something new, equipment is always on our list.
We should, however, mention that polo players tend to be very particular when it comes to their equipment so tread carefully when purchasing it as a gift, do the best you can to get specifics on exactly what they want and when that fails make sure to get some sort of a gift receipt.
Or if you’re totally at a loss for what they need and can’t get specifics from them, just give them money to put towards new equipment and rest assured it will get used.
Our top picks:
Casablanca now has a Canadian website with shipping across Canada and they’ve got all the polo gear the player on your list could ever want.
Tackeria located in Wellington, Florida also ships to Canada for all your equipment shopping needs.
Oakley Glasses are used by many players under their helmets to protect their eyes; the field lens technology can make the ball stand out on the grass which is exactly what players want (*hint* great gift for a player who doesn't have a pair). To be the best gift they receive this year, customize them with their favorite colours.
2. Polo Belts
For something similar to equipment but a little more fun to shop for, look at Pampeano’s classic polo belts. These belts come in brightly coloured South American patterns which are used by many a polo player. Because of their bright colours a polo player can always use another one to match yet another jersey colour next time they take to the field. To personalize your gift, get their initials engraved on the belt loop.
3. Polo Books
‘Tis the season for curling up by the fire and reading a good book so why not give the polo player on your list some reading material to while away the winter days reading about their favorite thing and counting down the days till the sunny summer days return and they can get back out there. For our favorite polo reading choices see our blog post Rainy Day Reading List.
4. Polo Jewellery
Jewellery is always a big hit with the ladies and for the female polo player on your list what better to get her than polo themed jewellery.
For the polo player that owns their own polo ponies, tack is always a good gift. However, as with their own equipment, players can be somewhat particular when it comes to buying equipment for their horses, so again, look for clues about what exactly they want or stick to something easy that is pretty standard like new saddle pads, wraps, or brow bands etc.
What better gift to give the polo player on your list than…more polo! Because of their previously stated one track mind, the polo player on your list probably spends an inordinate amount of their time scheming about how to find the time and money to play more polo, why not help them out and buy them more polo. Simply give them money or voucher for however much polo you wish to pay for on their behalf.
7. And if you really want to be their favorite person this Christmas, then there’s one final thing that no polo player will say no to…a polo pony! Just kidding!
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list you may be able to find even more cool polo themed gifts for the polo player on your list OR you may get lucky and have a polo player on your list who knows exactly what they want and asks for it point blank. Either way, we hope we’ve got the ideas flowing to make your holiday shopping just a little bit easier.
It’s officially that time of year. The time of year when the polo fields finally admit defeat to the cooler temperatures and shorter days and polo players hang up their field mallets for the season. And if you’re new to polo and just getting started on this crazy roller-coaster of a sport you’re probably be looking at the next six months wondering what on earth you’re going to do with yourself and how you’re going to satisfy that polo-craving that you’ve acquired.
Fear not for polo players are also polo addicts and there is no way we could go six months without playing some form of polo. You had to know we’d have you covered with plenty of off-season polo options to keep your skills sharp!
The way it works out, you’ve got two options…well, two and a half if you want to keep playing throughout the cold and snowy months in Toronto; arena polo, destination polo or snow polo (in perfect conditions).
The most popular option is, of course, arena polo. An adapted version of field polo to suit smaller spaces it’s played with three players on each team and a slightly larger softer ball but it no less exciting. The game moves fast, relies heavily on strategy, and is all about control of both the horse and the ball. For new players, it’s an awesome way to not just keep playing throughout the winter but to improve your skills. Arena polo has a lot to teach for those willing to learn (more on this later) and it’s a lot of fun …what more could you want for the off-season?
Sunny weather and big green grass fields you say? There’s an option for that too. The off-season in Toronto is also known as the season when most polo players travel, or as we’ve called it, destination polo season. Polo is played all over the world, and if you look hard enough you’ll find polo close to wherever you are. From the more common destinations like Wellington, Florida, and Argentina to the more obscure destinations like the Dominican Republic and Barbados you could find yourself playing your off-season somewhere sunny and warm. And traveling for polo is not at all uncommon, just pack your gear bag and hop onto the next flight bound for warmer climes. For recommendations on where to go and how to organize it reach out to us and we’d be happy to help!
Your final option, which isn’t really an option in and of itself, is snow polo which is played under the right conditions at the Toronto Polo School/Polo Management Services. With enough snow and cold temperatures conditions can be perfect for snow polo which is played similarly to arena polo with three players per team and if you can get past the frigid finger-numbing temperatures it’s a pretty neat thing to do. We highly recommend it!
So there you have it, your off-season polo options because six months is a long time to go without getting in some form of mallet swinging fun whether it’s just some casual stick and ball in the arena or a proper arena/snow polo match.
Ask any polo player who deals with an off-season and they’ll always give you a similar answer; “it’s not field polo but it’s something and that’s what’s important.” And we couldn’t say it any better than that because some polo is always better than no polo.
Without a doubt, polo is an addictive sport. And it’s been said that “once you’re in polo, it’s impossible to be out of polo…there are only two chances, either you die or you go bankrupt, but there’s no way you can be out of polo once you are inside, it’s like a virus.” It’s a bit of a dark statement but it’s not far from the truth. Polo is a lot more than a game…and for the right person it can become an addiction in the best sense of the word. After all, you could be involved in a lot worse things.
Polo has a way of sneaking up on new players. No one expects it to be quite as easy to learn or something that can be learned in the first place. So people intentionally come into the sport with low expectations. They tell themselves things like ‘I won’t even be able to hit the ball’ to ‘I’m not a Prince so I just won’t fit in with the crowd of players’. But the truth is, polo isn’t really like the stereotypes people make up for it, sure, Princes play the sport but regular people do too. And when people realize just how easy it is to take lessons, and how not impossible it is to hit the ball…well they find themselves sliding down the slippery slope of a polo addiction because the synergistic combination of horses, adrenaline, teamwork, competition and other factors makes it hard to stop once you’ve started.
So to all those new players out there, we’ve all been where you are. We’ve all rationalized our addiction the same way and to make you feel less alone we at the Toronto Polo School have documented the process so you know what to expect as you slide down that slippery slope of getting hooked on polo.
Stage 1: The ‘I just want to try it’ stage
So you’ve seen it played live, or on TV, or maybe you just had an urge to be different, to do something different. Whatever your reasoning you’ve found yourself signed up for a private lesson or one of our one-day learn to play clinics and you’re telling yourself you only want to try it. You don’t anticipate it becoming a big thing in your life but simply a way to pass a Saturday outside in the fresh air with friends. Besides…you probably won’t even be able to hit the ball so no danger of it being a long term thing.
Stage 2: The ‘Asking for a Friend’ stage
So you’ve tried it. You’ve done the one-day clinic; you cantered a polo pony, you hit the ball, you played a slow scrimmage. You go back to work on Monday and you find yourself thinking about ‘polo, polo, polo’. So you give us a call at the Toronto Polo School and you decide to just ask the question; how does one really learn to play polo…hypothetically that is? You just want to know, to have the information…it’s not like you’re really going to learn to play.
Stage 3: The ‘Just One Lesson’ stage
You couldn’t shake it, time passed and you were still thinking about that first time you hit the ball and swung a mallet. The wall of denial begins to come down, brick by brick, you take us up on our private lessons or eight-week polo school because you could be involved in a lot worse things…and this counts as social time and fitness time…doesn’t it?
Stage 4: The ‘Season is Short’ stage
Now that you’ve taken more lessons, you can feel polo beginning to grab a hold on your life. But you maintain that this isn’t going to be a regular occurrence in your life. Your life was fine as it was…and so was your bank account. So you tell yourself that you’ll just play for the summer, the Toronto summer season is short anyways…there…you’ve given yourself a finite amount of time to enjoy your new pastime. That is until you find out that polo is played all year in Toronto, the venue simply switches from grassy fields to arenas and snowy fields but the rush stays the same…
Stage 5: The ‘I’ll just play once a week’ stage
With the summer season firmly passed and with it your deadline for when you were going to stop playing and the polo addiction showing no sign of slowing down you re-evaluate your plan and tell yourself that you won’t stop playing…you’ll just cut it back to once a week. Just enough to keep your skills sharp but not enough to break the bank or your body.
Stage 6: The ‘I'll just buy some cheap equipment’ stage
You start to play proper instructional matches or for those true protégés maybe you’re playing proper field matches and you decide that you really do need some of the required equipment. You compromise and tell yourself that you just buy an inexpensive polo helmet (something to protect your head and help you look the part on the field), some inexpensive knee guards, boots and gloves etc. And we can’t forget a mallet…you decide to buy at least one, because you’re not like all those pros who break their way through their piles of mallets each summer…you don’t play hard enough or nearly as much as they do…
Stage 7: The ‘I just need one horse’ stage
You’ve come to the conclusion that maybe buying a horse might not be the worst idea in the world. You’d be able to play as much as you wanted (within reason) for the same flat fee per month. And you have always wanted to own a horse…it’s just the most economical way to play polo or so they say…all the players are doing it. So you find the perfect first horse and you pat yourself on the back for your good decision making.
Stage 8: ‘Just ONE more polo pony’ stage
Polo ponies are like kernels of popcorn…impossible to have just one. And even though you told yourself that you, personally, just needed one horse it became clear pretty quickly that the minimum required was two and wouldn’t you like to have a pair of polo ponies not just one? Back to the polo ponies for sale listing you go to search out your second horse…
Stage 9: Acceptance
Time goes by and you’ve got yourself set up quite nicely with some gear, a mallet, a small string of ponies and a handicap. There’s no denying it now, you’re hooked on polo and it’d be pretty hard to imagine your life (and your social circle) without polo. No sense in denying it anymore. You’re a proud polo addict and that’s ok…or so you tell yourself as you search the classifieds for polo pony prospects for sale (after all a spare pony would be nice)
There you have it. The rationalizing that goes on inside a new polo player’s mind as they fall head over heels for polo.
If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’re probably sitting there telling yourself that you’re different. You haven’t felt any of this. You really are just a casual player. And maybe you are, if you managed not to get hooked on polo…well good on you. But the rest of us are sunk and that’s totally okay because we’re sunk together.
Want to give it a try yourself? Contact us at email@example.com for information on 'learn to play' clinics and lessons.
Polo isn't the world's most popular sport. It's not always (or ever) broadcast on TV unless you live in Argentina but there is one place that polo can be found anywhere and anytime. YouTube. YouTube is a nearly never ending source of match edits, interviews, instructional videos, and match live streams. It's also a way for players, new and experienced, to get a feel for the quite literal world of opportunities that exist out there for polo players and fanatics. So sit back, relax and enjoy watching this list of our favorite polo YouTube videos.
1. From highlight reels to full matches and live streams of matches from across the United States there's always polo happening on the USPA Polo Network YouTube Channel.
2. Believe me when I say, once you watch this video playing polo in Argentina will jump to the top of your bucket list.
3. If you've ever heard whispers of polo pony cloning and wanted to learn more this video is your chance. An English subtitled video with all the information you've ever wanted about the pro-cloning side of the debate.
4. The teaser trailer for a tv series coming out soon that follows the global high goal polo circuit. Beautifully shot and artistically edited this video will make you glad to be a part of this crazy entertaining sport.
5. A USPA Polo Network shot film that shows exactly what it's like to ride a polo pony flat out.
6. The Rules of Polo can be complicated and the rule books can be even more complicated. This YouTube channel provides an alternative to learning polo right from the comfort of your couch. Of course, it's no substitute for the real thing, but for those days when you just can't get out to the barn it's a great way to keep up with your learning.
7. For all the ladies out there, here's a unique insight into the world of ladies polo from Apes Hill Polo Club in Barbados.
8. Polo is played all over the world (see above videos) and in all different conditions. And this short film profiles the event and players that participate in the annual Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz.
9. Ever wondered what's faster, a polo player or an F1 driver? Here's the answer to your question. A real comparison of horsepower.
10. Produced for Audi Argentina, a title sponsor of La Dolfina Polo Team's 2011 Argentine Open, this match edit shows all the great polo action from the first of the triple crown tournaments, the Hurlingham Open, in 2011.
Have any other polo favorites from YouTube? Comment the links below and we'll be sure to check them out!
Ask any polo player how important their ponies are to them and they’ll tell you they account for roughly 80% of their ability to play polo.
But how much do you really know about these mysterious creatures called ‘polo ponies’? Luckily, we’ve got all those burning questions covered in our handy dandy guide to polo ponies; the real athletes on the field.
What are they?
It’s one of the most common questions we get when people develop an interest in polo. What kind of horses are polo ponies?
Polo ponies are not a specific breed of horse and they don’t all come from one blood line. Though today most polo ponies today are at least part thoroughbred thanks to the thoroughbred's speed, stamina and build.
But there is nothing saying that a polo pony has to be a certain breed. Instead, they must meet certain requirements of both a physical and mental nature. Mentally, they must have a combination of intelligence and a love for the game also known as what players call a ‘mind for the game’. It’s very difficult to make a pony want to play polo, they have to have the mind capable of following everything that is happening out there on the field. Physically, they must have speed and endurance along with strong legs capable of carrying riders at full speed, stopping and turning on a dime. There’s also a certain amount of ‘heart’ required for a polo pony. Players want their ponies to be brave, to attack and take them into a play, but remain obedient and willing to their player’s instructions. That perfect polo pony with the right combination of mind and heart can sometimes be a once in a lifetime find unless of course, you’re a proponent of polo pony cloning (a story for another time).
Ponies of all heights and breeds may be played in the game. Only horses that have vices (fears, handicaps etc.) that may potentially be dangerous to other players or ponies are banned from playing.
Are they really ponies?
You’re probably wondering why they’re called ponies if there are no height or breed restrictions in the polo rulebook?
It all goes back to the days when the preferred mount for players was the Manipuri Pony which stood just 13.2 hands off the ground. In those days, the smaller the pony the better. But as the sport was adopted by the West and became more and more popular height restrictions on the ponies were raised and eventually abandoned in 1919. While they’re not actual ponies today, they still tend to remain on the shorter side of the spectrum. Most polo ponies today sit somewhere between 14 and 16 hands. And it is often said that the perfect pony rides like an 18 hand pony but plays like a 14 hand pony, with the hypothetical 18 hands giving the player an advantage in defense and the 14 hands giving the player the handling and maneuverablity that is so necessary on the polo field.
Where do they come from?
Polo ponies can come from a range of places. A large proportion of polo ponies today come from Argentina where there are huge breeding and training operations tailored specifically to polo. These operations are often the source of high goal ponies and have even recently ventured into genetically cloning star ponies so players can have multiple ponies of the same genes. Players often travel down to Argentina to look, try and purchase polo ponies who are then flown back to the player’s home country (see article No Small Feat). Polo ponies that originate from Argentina are often considered to be some of the world’s best thanks to the quality of stock and training down there. These horses are often thoroughbreds crossed with an Argentine working horse breed called a criollo, these ponies are often known just as Argentines.
But Argentina is not the only place ponies come from. Another popular avenue for polo ponies is from the race track. Ex-racehorses often have the speed and agility that is required for polo and if you can find one with the right conformation for polo it’s a good option. These off-track thoroughbreds are often trained to become polo ponies as a second career.
Other polo ponies are simply horses players have found and decided they liked the look of for polo. These can be quarter horses, thoroughbred crosses, and any other breed under the sun so long as they have the heart, mind and build for polo.
Training horses to play polo can be a long and unpredictable road. It can be filled with setbacks and time off for the horse to adjust and let what they’ve learned sink in or while they regress into their stupider days.
Horses start by being schooled and taught the movements required in polo; quick acceleration, stopping on a dime, and rollbacks. Then they are desensitized to the mallet and hours are spent ‘stick and balling’ with them so that they can get used to a rider swinging a mallet on their back sometimes taking other horses with them on the field. When the player believes the horse is comfortable enough they will begin to play the horse in slow chukkers, letting it get the hang of what it feels like to play an actual game.
Depending on the horse, their mind and where they came from it can take anywhere from a matter of months to a matter of years.
Matching Players and Ponies
Any player you meet will have their own preference when it comes to polo ponies. Some players like larger horses, maybe because of their own size or the security afforded to them by a larger pony; others like smaller ponies that handle like an agile sports car. While there may be a dictionary definition for the ‘perfect polo pony’ it is a fluid definition when it comes to matching ponies with riders.
For starters there are two types of horses; push horses and pull horses. Push horses are horses that have to be pushed into going fast, they have lazy tendencies and are perfect for the novice or nervous player. Pull horses are horses that need no encouragement to run and take their player into a play but they may need a little extra encouragement to stop. These are often for the more advanced horse(wo)man. But even novices sometimes like pull horses and pros like push horses, nothing is black and white when it comes to matching players and ponies.
Then there is the age old question of geldings vs. mares. Many polo ponies are mares, and many people prefer mares for the heart they have when they take to the field. It is often said, that a mare can be ‘asked’ to do something. A gelding must be told. Geldings can take longer to train and can sometimes be a little stupid but can also make excellent polo ponies for the right person.
All of the variables can combine into a range of personalities (and yes polo ponies absolutely have personalities) that must be matched with their player in order to create a perfect team and is often the reason that players learning to play are given the opportunity to try a variety of different horses so that they can learn what they like when it comes time to lease or buy.
Riding style is also a factor in matching ponies and players. Certain players have long strong legs and as such control the horse a lot with their legs. Others are a little more handsy and rely on the reins more making horses with sensitive mouths a bad choice for these players. Some players push horses harder than others while even other players will pick their style of horse for the position they play most often on the field.
Above all, a player must be comfortable on their ponies; because they are their teammate more than anyone else out there. And the connection between player and pony must be so instinctual that they can communicate without really communicating, they must be able to read each other's minds.
It has long been said that ‘a good player on a bad horse isn’t such a good player. And a bad player with a good horse can be a very good player.’ In polo, it’s all about the horses and it’s a large part of the reason why players enjoy the sport so much.
Love horses? Want to try something totally unique involving horses? Want to do things you never thought you’d do on a horse? Try Polo! We offer clinics and lessons, sign up today.
Looking to purchase a polo pony? Check out our horses for sale page for up to date listings on horses we’ve got for sale.
Polo is a sport with many names, one of which being the ‘Game of Kings’ and the name isn’t for nothing. Polo really is a very gentlemanly sport with the rules being created to protect human and horse competitors alike and a whole etiquette system to boot existing around the sport and its players. We’ve got all your queries about the etiquette of polo covered so that next time you hit the field, especially for those beginner players hitting the field for the first time, you know what to do and how to act.
Like any team sport, polo is dependent on coordinating a variety of factors into a perfect storm scenario; from the weather to eight (or more) busy people’s schedules, to sixteen or more horses and their grooms it’s a constant challenge to organize a polo match. That said, do your best not to show up late or unprepared. If the other players can do their part to coordinate their busy schedules in order to arrive on time, organize their horses for the match and arrive prepared you can too.
2. The Pre-Game Handshake
The first thing any polo player does when they take to the field before a match starts is ride up to the other players, on their team and on the opposing team, and shake hands or introduce themselves etc. As a team sport, polo is a social sport, and even the most intense tournament at its core is about having some fun with fellow players. So take the moment to relax, introduce yourself, and familiarize yourself with the other players because it will go a long way with your teammates and your opposition if they know your name on the field. Not to mention, polo is a sport heavily based on networking, teams are formed for each specific tournament so if another player likes what they see and wants you to play together in the next tournament them knowing your name goes a long way towards getting that chance to play together again.
Ideally, every player aims not to foul on the field. However, even the best players foul sometimes. When it happens other players may be seen throwing their mallets up in the air and yelling 'foul' to the umpire or anyone paying attention. When it happens just admit your mistake, apologize to your team and file that mistake away in your memory bank as something not to do next time. It’s as simple as that.
4. Switching Ponies in between Chukkers
In between each chukker, players must head for the sidelines or back to their trailers to switch their ponies for the following chukker. It’s considered good manners to only take as long as absolutely necessary in between chukkers, other players don’t enjoy being held up while you take your sweet time trading ponies.
5. No Heckling
It's all for fun and games and a little teasing in a practice game is one thing but out right heckling and yelling from the sidelines or from your pony aren't really considered polite behaviour on the polo field, after all we are civilized ladies and gentlemen and the sport really is about getting out there, having some fun and maybe winning a nice trophy when it's all said and done.
6. The Post-Game Handshake
Polo is a game of many handshakes. And in addition to the pre-game handshake it’s customary to shake hands with the other players, teammates, and opposition, once again after the game finishes. Players usually also thank each other and congratulate them on a game well played. You probably shouldn’t leave the field without participating in this little ritual or the others might think you didn’t enjoy playing with them or simply think you're just not a very polite person. Save your reputation and shake hands.
They work tirelessly to ensure that your horses are in tip top shape to take to the field when you do and look good while they’re out there. So throw them a quick thank you after the game for all they do to keep your horses happy, fit and healthy.
8. Divot Stomping
After the game, when the ponies have been put away, the players have cooled down and let the adrenaline die down from an exciting match it’s customary for all the players to head out onto the field and ‘stomp the divots’ or clean up the field. It goes a long way towards ingratiating yourself with the field owner, who likely works tirelessly on keeping the field in playable condition and considers the field their pride and joy, if you make an effort towards repairing some of the damage you may have made.
9. Post Game Socializing
Like we mentioned above, polo is a social sport and any player would agree that taking the time to socialize with other players off the field is nearly as important as playing the game. Obviously, there are extenuating circumstances, like scheduling conflicts and match delays. But generally, players plan to linger for at least fifteen minutes after the game finishes to debrief and converse with their fellow players. If you’re lucky some matches will include asados (Argentine barbecues) or refreshments after the game, even more incentive to stick around the field after the game to debrief and catch up with what’s happening in your teammates lives off the field.
While it’s not always the case and there are many exceptions to the rule. At Polo Management Services/Toronto Polo School, when a player makes an unplanned dismount during the game aka takes a tumble we are owed a case of beer or something equivalent. It’s our way of providing a little motivation for you not to take a tumble, you are welcome.
So there you have it, your guide to the unspoken rules of polo. You can thank us next time you attempt to navigate the tricky waters of polo match etiquette and know exactly what to do.
They may call it ‘hockey on horseback’ in some circles, but there’s one thing for sure that differentiates polo from hockey and that’s it’s popularity or lack thereof. Polo is rare, polo players are even rarer and the matches? Well, they usually happen somewhere off the radar of the vast majority of the population.
And its rarity isn’t a bad thing. It means you, as a polo player, get to be unique. You are part of an elite club, a club so elite and so secret most people don’t even know it exists! That said, when you tell people that you play polo or that you can’t make that dinner because you’re playing polo, well you may get some weird, funny, and downright confused looks and remarks.
We’ve compiled a list of the best, most stereotypical responses from people that players could get when they say they play polo and we’ve even provided a list of possible responses, to help you explain your penchant for ‘hockey on horseback’.
1. “Like on horses?”
Probably one of the most common responses people will have when you say you’re a polo player. For some reason when you say ‘polo’ most people are trying to reconcile you with their stereotypical ‘Pretty Woman’ Royal Family polo player image and the two aren’t connecting…so the next logical explanation just HAS to be water polo…we don’t understand it either.
Possible Responses: ‘yes’ (simple but effective) OR ‘of course, what other kind of polo is there?’ (feign ignorance towards water polo).
2. “Do you know Prince William and Prince Harry?”
There might be a theme developing. Polo’s reputation as the ‘Game of King’s’ often has people thinking literally, and for some reason, they seem to think the polo world is so small that you just must have taken to the field with the only polo players most people know of.
Possible Responses: ‘the polo world is small but not THAT small’ (the truth) OR ‘of course, Will and Harry and I play together ALL the time’ (sarcasm).
3. “They play polo here?”
Most people think polo is a sport played by the English Aristocracy in the English countryside and not much else. They’re not aware of it’s global network and its popularity among South Americans and the rest of the world. Think back to before you learned to play polo, did you know Argentine’s dominated the sport and that it was played in over 50 countries worldwide? If you did, then bravo you!
Possible Responses: ‘yes’ (simple) OR ‘yes, we have a polo club located North of the City’ (leave it at that, if they didn’t know there was polo here they certainly won’t understand polo club logistics), OR ‘it’s a well kept secret’ (leave them hanging at that, then they’ll absolutely need to know more)
4. “I’m wearing a polo shirt!
In everyday life, the only time the word ‘polo’ comes up is in conjunction with the brand ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’ or shirts of the polo variety. Some people may be so stunned and lacking a response when you say that you’re a polo player that the first thing that pops into their head is the popular connotation of polo and fashion.
Possible Responses: ‘that you are’ (there really isn’t anything else to be said here)
5. “Are matches really like that scene in Pretty Woman?”
Another popular connotation of polo is the popular movie Pretty Woman. You’ll sometimes hear people refer to their ‘Pretty Woman’ polo moment. For most people this and other Hollywood depictions are the only instances that they’ve seen a polo match, so naturally they want to know if the silver screen versions match up with the real thing.
Possible Responses: ‘yeah, sort of (insert detail about the differences here)’ OR ‘why don’t you find out for yourself I’m playing [insert date and location]’
6. “How exactly does that work?
These are the people that are genuinely curious (future polo players?!). They want to try to understand the what, how, why, and who of polo in Toronto. So take your time to explain things as best as you can, you never know where the next polo addict or fan will come from!
Possible Responses: ‘I play Tuesdays and Thursdays north of the city; I lease horses etc.’ (fill in appropriate details)
7. “So are you on a team? Do they even have teams in Polo?”
Like most sports, people associate them with teams. And so people will automatically jump to wanting to know what team you play for as a way to assess how good you might be. Handle this however you’d like, the politics and complexities of polo teams never make for a straight cut explanation.
Possible Responses: ‘I’m a club member and teams are randomly formed depending on the match and tournament’ OR ‘We have teams but they change all the time due to personal and tournament handicaps,’ (be prepared for questions about handicaps if you go with this answer)
8. “Where do you even learn to play polo?”
These are the people that likely thought you had to either be Royal or born into polo in order to be a player, they’d never even thought it was something that could be learned. Like reaction #6 these people are genuinely curious and might just be potential polo players so take your time with this. Remember to give us, the Toronto Polo School, a shout out in your answer! (kidding…but not really)
Possible Responses: tell them your own polo origin story OR ‘I took lessons or a clinic at the Toronto Polo School’ etc.
9. “How did you get into THAT?”
A similar reaction to the one above. These people are the people who never thought they’d be standing face to face with a real live polo player. They’ve run through all the above responses and settled on the overarching ‘how’.
Possible Responses: tell them how and why you started to play polo (simple, truthful, effective)
10. “Wow!” or other monosyllabic expressions of surprise and speechlessness
These are the people that thought polo and polo players only actually exist in movies, on the pages of Hello Magazine and in the glossy ads for Ralph Lauren and US Polo Association clothes. Let’s just say you’ve thrown them a curve ball with your penchant for polo, and they’re currently searching their minds for everything they know about polo to come up with the right question to ask next, their first response was just a way to buy time.
Possible Responses: ‘yep’ (acknowledge them and wait for the follow-up question)
Whatever the reaction you get when you tell people you play polo, own your response and your uniqueness as a polo player because let’s be honest it and you are pretty cool.
Believe it or not, we are fast approaching the mid point in the summer, even though it feels like it just started because the good weather took so long to arrive. It’s at this point in the summer that people look towards the fall and start making plans for those cool Toronto fall days.
If you’re a polo player, the fall also means the end of field polo season and the beginning of the arena or snow polo season in Toronto. A sad time of year indeed. But there’s one thing that saves us all for our winter away from the fields and that’s Argentina.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again. Argentina and its people are hugely influential when it comes to the ‘polo culture’ and ‘polo lifestyle’. From the go to catering choice of Argentinian Barbecue (aka Asado) to the presence of Spanish and Spanish speakers around every polo field, you can’t really escape Argentina when you’re a polo player.
And with good reason. Argentina is home to some of the best polo players, matches, fields, and horses in the world. You won’t see better polo than you’ll see on field number one at Palermo, especially if you happen to get tickets to see the final of the ‘Open’.
It’s because of the importance of Argentina within the polo world and the high caliber of polo that can be watched and played during their peak season each November that players from all over the world hop the next flight down to the mecca of polo for a few weeks of red wine, red meat, and polo. Let’s just say it’s our way of stocking up and overdosing on polo before we all return home to our indoor arenas.
Where you may limit yourself to playing every other day or as little as once or twice a week in the summer season in Toronto (you have to pace yourself somehow, right?), in Argentina you play every single day (as long as your body can handle it and the weather holds out). You ride through those sore muscles and continually remind yourself that there’s no more polo like this once you hop that plane back home, so a little pain now will be worth it in the long run.
Because everyone who is anyone makes the trip down at the same time of year, it’s also a social opportunity. You never know who you may find yourself taking the field with or standing beside in the bar at the Campo Argentino de Polo aka Palermo. While it’s a social sport, polo can sometimes feel a little lonely, because people outside polo often don’t realize that it exists or understand it even if they do know that it exists but in Argentina everyone around very much knows it exists, can point you to the closest field and can and will give you their opinions of the players you’re watching, the ponies they played this morning and where they stand on the issues of cloning among others topics. So in a way, it’s kind of refreshing not to have to dumb down or explain the world that you’ve been so swept up by because everyone around you has the addiction as you…an addiction to polo.
It’s also a chance for newer players to get to the root of the Argentine influence of the sport. Once you’ve seen Cambiaso and La Dolfina and Ellerstina and the Pieres’ duke it out on field number one at Palermo well let’s just say that there will be no doubt in your mind why these guys are the best-ranked players in the world. If you weren’t hooked before you certainly will be now.
The food is a whole other reason to make the trip. You’ve likely had the chance to try an Asado at some point in your polo career you’ve probably never had a real authentic Asado. Because while we try to do Asados justice when we do them in Canada they never quite seem to measure up to the Argentine standard, there’s something in the laidback approach to entertaining for an ever changing number of guests with piles of meat slow cooked over an open flame that we Canadians can’t quite get perfect. Not to mention how fast Asados can be thrown together; you can be field side after an evening game in Argentina with no dinner plans only to have everyone band together and divide the work that needs to be done to host an Asado in a matter of minutes. But it’s not ALL about the meat, well not really, Argentina is also home to some of the best Italian food outside of Italy.
Especially coming from Canada where polo equipment is hard to come by and particularly limited in selection going to Argentina is your chance to stock up on all the equipment you may need for the following season. Mallets, helmets, knee pads, boots, whites, polo belts…the list goes on. You may very well need a second suitcase to get the stuff home but its easy to justify an equipment shopping spree down there because you just can’t find the stuff back home.
So aside from it being hugely important as a social opportunity and as a cultural experience, any amount of constant time spent practicing and playing polo will hugely improve your game so while you may be a little worse for wear on your flight back home, your game and your handicap will thank you.
But how does it all work?
Everyone has different requirements for their annual Argentina trip and each individual will want their own balance of playing, watching, eating, shopping and socializing. All different combinations can be arranged. The popularity of polo down there, especially in the peak season, means that there’s an never ending stream of people looking to accommodate players of all levels and interests.
For help in finding the place that will give you’re looking for and be most suitable for your playing level or to sharpen up your game skills with some lessons and matches before you leave contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Polo doesn’t really compare to other spectator sports in the Toronto when it comes to popularity and infrastructure but that doesn’t mean the polo players and polo ponies don’t welcome the support when spectators do appear field-side. And chances are unless you know someone involved in polo or play polo yourself, you may not have even realized that there is polo in Toronto.
But, we can assure you there is and we, as players, love to see spectators at the side of the field enjoying the game, so next time you feel like trying something new why not come out and watch some polo. And you don’t have to worry about not knowing what to expect or how to act when you get there because we’ve got you covered with our handy dandy guide to spectating polo.
A polo field measures approximately 10 acres and the game is played with a ball that is about the size of a softball. As you can imagine, from the spectator’s point of view, it’s not the easiest game to follow. Our suggestion? Come to terms with the fact as a spectator you’re not always going to be right in the centre of the action and half the time you may not even be able to see or hear much. But, polo fields are nearly always located in picturesque locations and matches nearly always coincide with good weather so take the view that watching polo is a way to enjoy the summer weather and the surroundings with a side of polo action to keep things interesting. Bring a picnic, dress for the weather, and leave your daily life behind while you watch the ‘Game of Kings’.
The rules of polo are complicated and even the most accomplished player sometimes gets lost or commits a foul unintentionally. They’re created to keep the players and their equine teammates safe and they succeed; however they go from simple to complicated real fast. So, don’t get hung up on the game and the rules because you’ll quickly find you can’t follow the game or figure out whose winning (owing to the fact that teams switch ends after each goal scored). Instead, just watch the horses and the players and the things they can do as a team. Enjoy the power and beauty of the sport as a whole. And when all else fails, cheer when everyone else cheers, you can’t go wrong with that.
We could take the time to tell you all the rules and intricacies of the game but the truth is it will only complicate things for you, and even beginner players don’t have a great handle on the rules when they start to play and instead rely on more experienced players and umpires to show them the ropes. So take a page from the beginner’s book and just get out there and enjoy in the way that’s simplest for you to enjoy.
What to wear:
Dress code can vary depending on the match and event you’re attending. In Toronto, for instance, matches tend to be very casual, low-key affairs. The only two exceptions in the standard Toronto summer polo season are the two charity polo matches; Polo for Heart and Polo for the Cure. Both of which are pretty much your stereotypical matches like you’ve seen in movies. That said, ladies, heels aren’t recommended and hats aren’t required (this isn’t the Kentucky Derby) though they are welcomed if that’s something you want to wear. But for the lionshare of Toronto matches the only dress code is to come as you are and be prepared for any weather because the last thing you want is to be caught without a sweater when the temperature drops or an umbrella if on the off chance (more than off chance this year) it starts to rain.
How to Watch:
While some clubs and events around the world, like the International Polo Club in Florida and the Argentine Open in Argentina, have huge spectator infrastructure in the form of stands, tables, and hospitality tents, things aren’t quite that grand in Toronto with the exception of the two big charity matches. That said, come prepared with something to sit on, whether it’s a lawn chair or a picnic blanket and set up camp at the side of the field. And, be prepared to move for the odd ball that may jump over the boards and the subsequent player to come chasing after it because the boards are short for a reason and it isn’t uncommon for play to sometimes jump the boards before continuing on down the field. As a side note, binoculars aren’t a bad thing to bring with you for those times when play moves to the far side of the field and you still want to follow the action.
Polo comes with a language all it’s own, and if you stand near the pony lines for any amount of time you’ll come to see as much. The key things to know are; the sticks are called mallets, the ball is called the ball (shocker, we know), the horses are called ponies regardless of their size and pedigree and the periods are called chukkers. Any language that isn’t English that you may hear at the side of the field is likely Spanish. See our ABC’s of polo and the polo lifestyle for the full crash course in polo lingo.
The Pony Lines:
Speaking of the pony lines, spectators are welcome to stop by the pony lines and trailers to chat and visit with the players and ponies before and after matches but remember to stay safe around the ponies because while they are generally pretty bombproof they are still animals and big ones at that. And whatever you do, don’t head over to the pony lines between chukkers, it can be a hectic place as all the players change mounts and you’re better to steer clear till the game is done and players and ponies alike are more relaxed.
Due to the fact that polo isn’t popular as a spectator sport in Toronto, there isn’t really much infrastructure when it comes to publicizing results and game schedules. But, you can always contact us, at email@example.com for updated schedules.
And, just in case you watch a polo match and decide it’s something you absolutely have to try, we can help with that too! Talk to us at the match or contact us for details on our learn to play polo clinics and polo lessons. All levels welcome!
From the outside polo looks like any other sport, a hobby to pursue in your free time. But all those that play polo or are learning to play polo will agree that that’s not exactly true. Polo can very quickly become all consuming. It comes with a lifestyle all its own. And before long you’ll start to notice that it’s changed your life in a few different ways.
1. Polo, Polo, Polo
For starters, your mind starts to think about polo, all the time. And especially in the summer on nice days, other plans take a backseat to polo because the field polo season is short and a polo match coming together is a little like a perfect storm, it requires the coordination of a minimum of 8 player’s schedules, upwards of 16 horses, playable fields and sunny and dry weather in the least. So when the email comes through that a match is happening you’ll suddenly find yourself dropping what can be dropped so you can make it out to the fields in time to get your fix of polo. And if for whatever reason you can’t move things around to make it to the match, you’ll find yourself thinking about the match, the ponies and the other players out there enjoying the summer evening on the field.
2. Your New Favorite App
As mentioned above, polo is an incredibly weather dependent sport. Learning to play polo comes with an appreciation for just how long it takes the grass on a polo field to dry in order for the field to be playable. The weight of the horses and the speed that they move and stop at mean that a polo field has to be dry, but not too dry that the grass gets burned. It’s a perfect balance. And it can take days after rain before the field is playable again. Because of its weather dependent nature, you’ll quickly find that the Weather Network app and the radar, in particular, become your new favorite/most used apps as you watch like a hawk for storms passing through and count the drying days until you can get back out on the field again.
3. White Pants become more than just a Fashion Accessory
The official game attire of polo players is white pants, jeans to be specific, and every polo player has their own favorite brand/cut/style of white jeans they use for polo. So while everyone else watches for sales on white jeans at Ralph Lauren and Levi’s to keep in pristine condition and wear for those hot summer smart casual occasions. Polo players watch for sales on their tried and true favorites to top up their collection of stained and marked ‘whites’ for their next tournament or match. And the rule about only wearing white pants between May 24th and Labor Day doesn’t apply to polo players, white jeans are a staple in any player’s wardrobe and not for fashion’s sake.
4. Argentina moves to the top of your Travel Bucket List
Spend enough time with ‘gauchos’ and professional polo players from Argentina (and yes these are people you will meet and spend time with in polo) and hear them speak longingly about their farms and estancias located in the pampas just outside Buenos Aires and you’ll quickly find that Argentina moves to the top of your list of ‘must visit’ countries. And it’s not exactly the kind of place you can go once as a polo player, once you’ve experienced the Argentine polo lifestyle it’s hard to forget and even harder for it to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip.
5. Meat becomes a staple of your diet
Meat is a staple in most polo player’s diets largely because of the tradition of celebrating matches and polo related activities with an Asado or Argentine barbecue. It seems to be the go to catering option in the polo world and polo players aren’t kidding when they say they may average between two and four asados per week in the heart of the summer polo season. And if you do make it to Argentina you may find yourself going vegetarian for a little while when you return home because of just how much meat you consumed while there.
Of course, polo changes your life in more than just the above ways, but we can’t give all the changes away. We have to let you experience some of them for yourself. Give polo a try to see the other ways it will change your life…for the better.
There’s plenty of good reasons why now is a good time to learn to play polo besides the obvious of it being a fun and adrenaline filled sport with an exciting lifestyle to boot.
For starters, the long-awaited arrival of summer weather means that the Toronto Polo season is at its peak with all the players migrating from indoor and all-weather outdoor arenas to the huge grass fields located just north of the city. When you’re standing field side, you’d never believe that you’re only about an hour and a half from the downtown core. And if playing isn’t for you, watching the horses and players fly around 10-acre fields that are kept in perfect condition chasing a little white ball is a pretty great way to enjoy the Toronto summer and escape the heat and congestion of the city.
Polo also provides an excuse to get outside and enjoy the summer weather. Imagine finishing up at your office a little early to end your day out in the country getting some exercise and learning something new. It really is simple and accessible. We offer one-day introductory polo clinics, a way to get your feet wet and see what the world of polo is really all about, and if you like what you see our eight-week polo school can take you from a complete beginner and make you into a novice polo player in a manner of weeks.
And once you’ve gone through the learning process, polo just keeps giving. Winston Churchill once said; “A polo handicap is a passport to the world,” because learning to play polo and earning that coveted handicap, even if it is just a -2 (the lowest possible handicap), literally opens up a world of opportunities for you. Polo is played over 70 countries worldwide and has a strong culture of travel and hospitality surrounding it. ‘Polo Holidays’ are a very real thing, and players that hail from colder climates, i.e. Toronto, often find themselves searching out the warm weather and green grass at least once a year when they’re suffering withdrawal from the adrenaline rush that is field polo. The most popular destinations for polo holidays are Florida, the Caribbean, and of course Argentina (the modern mecca of polo) but if you look hard enough you can find polo anywhere you happen to be traveling.
The global network of clubs, players and teams gladly opens its arms to you once you’ve learned to play and before long you’ll find yourself fielding invitations to far corners of the globe to play with friends and acquaintances you’ve crossed paths with at some point or another on some polo field or another. And it’s not just an acceptance to the global community of players you gain by learning to play.
You also gain an acceptance to the local community of players, in this case, the Toronto Polo community, when you learn to play. Polo is a very community-based sport with a thriving social aspect and every polo player wants more players to join the sport because that means more people to play with. With more players comes more competition; polo suffers without new players and players get bored of playing with the same people all the time, they like having new minds and horses out on the field to shake things up.
And no polo outing is complete without some form of socializing, however minor, it is a team sport after all. From stomping divots to sitting around the clubhouse or pony lines before and after the match to a post-game debrief over slow cooked meat Argentine barbecue style, there really is no shortage of socializing in the polo world.
Of course, people only make up half the polo equation, horses being the other half. And if you love horses, this is the sport for you. While it’s similar to other horse sports in the sense that it features a human-equine partnership, it’s different in the sense that in addition to that partnership there is also the human teamwork aspect. The polo ponies are also stunning creatures, and once you’ve felt the full power of what they can do you’ll never be able to go back to riding regular horses. It’s part of what makes the sport so addictive and appealing.
As we’ve hinted at before, polo comes with a lifestyle and a culture all it’s own, a result of it’s long (2500 year) history and its presence all over the world. Certain traditions in the sport can be traced back as far as the sport’s origins in Persia others to colonial India, and many to the current dominance of the sport in Argentina, for instance the large presence of Spanish heard on the field. As a polo player you get to meet people from all over the world, learn about new cultures and the slight variations in different culture’s approaches to polo, while being a part of the unique ‘polo culture’ and maybe even a part of history. What more could you want from a new hobby?
Not to mention, learning to play now will mean that you’ll be able to enjoy the best part of the summer and fall seasons in Toronto and be ready to participate in the annual player’s pilgrimage to Argentina this November. And even in the cold winter months, the Toronto polo season continues to function albeit in a slightly different format than in the warm summer months with the players and ponies moving indoors for arena polo and with the perfect conditions outside for snow polo. So there’s always a way to satisfy your desire to play once you’ve been infected with the ‘polo bug’.
So, are you convinced yet? Want to sign up for our next one-day introduction to polo clinic? Check our events page for dates or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details and updated schedules.
Rain means wet fields and wet fields means no polo which for polo players is pretty much a nightmare. And short of taking up water polo, there's nothing that can be done to stop the rain and speed up the drying of the fields. So while you’re stuck inside watching the puddles form we’ve compiled a polo reading list so you can make use of all that time that can’t be spent playing polo.
Over the course of polo’s long history as a sport, a number of books have been written about it. And there’s a little something for everyone. From trashy fiction set in the world of high goal polo to historical ‘how to play’ manuals and up to date non-fiction books about how to improve your game and handicap. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites for those rainy days when the weather just won’t cooperate.
1. Polo by Jilly Cooper
No list of polo books would be complete without the cult classic Polo by Jilly Cooper. Thoroughly researched and exhaustingly detailed (in a good way), Cooper takes you inside the scandalous world of high-goal polo in the 1980’s. While you may not learn anything about improving your own game, you will get to escape the real world for a couple hundred pages (more like 800 pages) as you delve into the world of Ricky France-Lynch, Perdita MacLeod, Rupert Campbell Black and all the other fascinating characters Cooper has thought up. The story takes you on a whirlwind trip through the polo world from the polo fields in England to Palm Beach, Argentina, California, and France among other destinations.
2. The Polo Season Series by Jessica Whitman and Nacho Figueras
A new release in the genre of polo themed fiction, the Polo Season Series is comprised of three separate books; High Season, Wild One, and Ride Free that all follow the lives of members of the Del Campo family polo dynasty. They’re a light read that still manage to satisfy your polo craving and they’ve got Nacho Figueras’ name on them…so even if the story lines are trashy you know that the polo information is accurate.
3. Polo Life by Adam Snow and Shelley Onderdonk
Polo life veers off the path of trashy polo themed fiction towards something that might actually improve your game or at the very least provide insight into what it takes to survive the world of high goal polo. Written by Adam Snow (former 10-goal player) and his veterinarian and wife Shelley Onderdonk the book covers everything from what it’s like to play as a pro to what it’s like to achieve 10 goals, tips for finding and buying the right horses and how to best care for them among other topics. Interspersed throughout are anecdotes from Onderdonk and Snow’s life in the world of polo which makes all the factual information go down easier. Well worth the read for anyone curious about the world of high goal polo and what it takes to survive in it.
4. The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
Now for a classic, Kipling’s The Maltese Cat takes you inside the mind of a polo pony on the day of a match in colonial India when polo was still a cavalry based sport. Hailed as “the greatest and most enjoyable story ever written about the game of polo and one of the greatest stories ever written from a pony’s point of view” it’s a must read for any polo fanatic. And at only 63 pages long (depending on the edition), it’s one of the shorter books on this list.
5. Let’s Talk Polo by Sunny Hale
Sunny Hale was one of the world’s most famous female polo players until she passed away suddenly this past winter. Thankfully, her wisdom and experiences will remain with us as she’s documented them all in her book Let’s Talk Polo. Her book covers everything from Stick and Ball to practice games, the language of polo, tournaments, polo ponies, mallets, and tips. Short and to the point, it’s the ideal guide for the new polo player to get their feet wet.
6. Let’s Talk About Your Handicap by Sunny Hale
Another addition to the Let’s Talk series by the late Sunny Hale, she goes more into depth on issues surrounding polo handicaps. The book answers all the questions you’ve ever hand about polo handicaps from the basics to how to improve your handicap, she’s covered it all.
7. Polo by J. Moray Brown
Written in the late 1800’s, Polo by J. Moray Brown was the how to guide of it’s century. Nowadays some of the tips are a little out of date but it’s nevertheless a cool read for those looking to get a sense for polo’s long history.
8. Modern Polo by Captain E. D. Miller
The name Modern Polo can be a little misleading with this book, it’s also a how to guide from another century but still a cool read for those wanting to understand the polo of the past and see what’s changed in the decades since. Also a good read in the historical category is As to Polo by William Cameron Forbes.
9. Polo by Susan Barrantes
Polo is the ultimate coffee table book for anyone who has ever wanted to play or does play polo. Complete with beautiful photos and a foreword by the Prince of Wales it does not disappoint.
Other Polo Related Books:
· The Golden Mallet by Elizabeth Y. Layton
· Let’s Talk Polo Ponies by Sunny Hale
· Polo: The Nomadic Tribe by Aline Coquelle
· Playmaker Polo by Hugh Dawney
· The Complete Guide to Polo by Lauren Dibble
Your crash course in all things polo and the polo lifestyle.
In the past few weeks, we’ve been involved with shipping some polo ponies from Argentina to Canada.
No doubt, shipping horses is a fairly regular occurrence, but what makes this particular shipment stand out was the sheer volume of ponies that were shipped to Canada. A grand total of 87 polo ponies made up the shipment that very nearly filled the inside of a Boeing 747 cargo plane.
They landed at Hamilton International Airport on May 4th and were greeted with our typical early spring weather of cool, damp rain. Definitely a drastic change from the climate they’d grown used to in Argentina. Nevertheless, they remained patient as they were all unloaded from the plane, and taken over to a warehouse where they were removed from their shipping boxes (after upwards of 10 hours in them). They were then checked over by vets and customs and given food and water. Once each horse was given the ‘all clear’ they were loaded into waiting trailers which took them to the quarantine barn located at Pampa Norte Polo Farm in Alliston, Ontario where they would serve out their quarantine period.
The processing of all 87 polo ponies and their subsequent loading into trailers took the better part of the day and they finally made it to Alliston later in the evening. Once they were unloaded and checked once again by customs they settled in to their quarantine stalls where they would remain for approximately the next two weeks.
They received constant monitoring and tests throughout their quarantine period and were released at long last on May 23rd at which point they were taken to their new homes all over Ontario and the Northeastern United States.
Taking into account the pre-flight quarantine that took place in Argentina, the flight itself and their Canadian quarantine period these horses have been in transit and unable to just be horses since the end of March making their release last night even sweeter. Despite all the stress and confusion these horses were under they all remained patient and calm throughout the entire ordeal. What a bunch of troopers!
We can’t wait to see what these ponies can do on the field once they’ve had a chance to settle in and relax.
*For those curious about how much an equine plane ticket costs, it is approximately $9000 USD per horse.
Last night we said goodbye to one of our beloved polo ponies, Nutria.
She had a long career as a polo pony and won a numerous Best Playing Pony awards before becoming a school horse at the Toronto Polo School. In her role as a school horse, she taught countless beginners to play polo and was a favorite of many.
Nutria was in her twenties and passed away peacefully in her stall last night from old age. She will be missed around the farm and by all the players she took care of.
This past week marked the start of the outdoor arena polo season at Bancroft Farm with games occurring on Tuesday evening and Sunday afternoon.
The outdoor arena has been open for use and playable since mid-April but last week was our first opportunity to get a group together and organize games.
We had a great turn out for both games; on Tuesday evening we played four chukkers and on Sunday we played six chukkers. Temperatures were in the mid to high teens and the competition was great both days. Everyone and their ponies were happy to finally be outside again enjoying the beautiful spring weather.
Weather permitting, games will be organized on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. Tuesday and Thursday Games starting at 5:00 pm and weekend games at 1:00 pm.
See you at the farm soon!