The Polo Diaries: Lesson Time
On my return to polo, my goals were simply to raise my confidence again, and to have some fun. A couple of months of playing fun polo in the arena at Carlton House and stick and balling almost every other day brought me on leaps and bounds and soon it was time to think about the future again, my polo future. I was once again in the frame of mind to want to be playing, learning and stick and balling as much as I possibly could. That in mind, the return of Coco (2) and Alice (0) from Argentina spurred me on to book a lesson.
Arriving at the club, I was admittedly slightly nervous; the first lesson with a new coach always does take some time to get into the swing of things…no pun intended…however united with Mini Obi again and with a pretty good inkling as to what we would be working on, I was excited to begin to get those bad habits unpicked and take the next steps toward an eventual career.
Straight into the arena, it was time to take a look at and analyse my swing, at a standstill and at the walk. My issues were not getting out of the saddle enough, not gripping with my knees and hitting the ball late. Fortunately I did begin to get my eye back in, although gripping with my knees is still not natural and whenever my focus slipped I looked down and had the dreaded ‘flappy’ knees. Weirdly enough it is a lot better when wearing kneepads, I think there is something about having a physical reminder when it comes to retraining muscles.
Warmed up, it was then straight into canter work to deepen my seat and to work on keeping my knees and toes in the correct positions when moving at speed. After what seemed like an inordinately long time, I was finally allowed to take a breather (again, unfit), with Mini Obi putting in a perfect polo stop…even I couldn’t quite believe it.
It was then straight back into canter and off to hit some balls. I cantered around the arena whilst my new coach hit the balls up to me if I missed and I got my eye in. This impromptu work also helped me to improve my confidence when making tight turns, and my awareness of where the ball was at all times. It was then onto more canter circles around the arena, really focusing on my fitness, seat and keeping my weight in my heels on both reins.
Exhausted, with core muscles protesting, we ended the lesson with more hitting practice at a walk, focusing on getting out of the saddle more, keeping my knees tight to the saddle and starting my swing earlier. One thing I realised that I have never noticed before is that I wasn’t using the pony’s neck for stability when swinging, hence feeling more insecure (especially with my spectacularly unfit thigh and core muscles) and therefore starting my swing too late. Mind=blown.
Finishing with a beautiful shot to goal, it was then back to the yard and into the polo hub, aka tack room for some revision of the rules. Fortunately I wasn’t too rusty (that would be awkward), and the basics still are there the importance of being on your man and never stopping was also reiterated.
It was definitely a productive morning and with two chukkas tomorrow, I can’t wait to put some of what I learned today into action, after all I’m playing in my first match on Friday….