At 65 I’ve decided to learn a new sport. Many women I know are searching for that Third Act, The Passion in their lives in this final chapter. If I were prudent, I would take up golf or perhaps pursue hiking, biking, or yoga. I’ve decided Polo is my new passion. Think of hockey, combined with Chess, add a pinch of danger and a helping of thrill at 35 miles per hour on a horse, and you have something that approximates Polo.
Polo is the oldest equestrian discipline dating back to the sixth century in Persia. Originally it was military training games simulating battles. Today’s matches are far more refined. A team of four has replaced the hundreds of warriors, lighter equipment, and faster mounts are at the heart of the battle today.
The first step was to find a place to take lessons. I mentioned my desire to knock this item off my bucket list to a friend who eagerly agreed to join me. We traveled north to the Heritage Farm Polo Club in Canaan, NH. As outlined on their website, the Introduction to Polo was to be a two-hour lesson. The first hour included learning to handle the mallet, reviewing equipment, and practice on a wooden horse. Our instructor, Tiger Kneece, is a world-class player and the manager of the Aiken SC Polo Club. He evaluated us on the ground, had us tack up two ponies then moved us straight to the field.
Half an hour into our mounted instruction, we were chasing balls down the field, and my right arm was beginning to burn from wielding the mallet. By the end of the hour, we both managed to hit the ball at a canter. Like hockey, there is a lot of checking and physical contact. The experienced ponies we rode knew their stuff, and if we missed a shot, they obliged by kicking the ball forward for us.
We left exhausted and grinning so hard my face hurt almost as much as my right arm the next day.
A week later, after many nights of googling Polo videos, historical facts, and equipment websites, we decided to return to watch a match. Knowing now just how hard it is to manage a 1,200-pound animal, swing a mallet, and connect with a small ball, we had a new appreciation for the game.
The match is composed of 4-6 Chukkars. Each Chukkar is 7.5-minute long. Ponies play one Chukkar, with a brief break between to switch to a fresh pony. These are amazingly athletic animals. The match we saw was a Pro-Am competition with three amateurs and one pro on each team. Both men and women competed, and the age range of the riders was early twenties to mid-seventies.
It may take years before I’m “game ready” for this endeavor, but it’s been a long time since I felt so excited about starting something new.