If you want to take up polo you are probably wondering what it is like and if it’s difficult?
Well learning polo from scratch, if you haven’t ridden before or only a little, is very similar to learning to drive. You’ve seen and sat in cars before, but not in the driving seat. Your driving instructor needs to explain to you what you need to do with your hands and feet to make the car move. You have to do several things at the same time and in the correct sequence… left foot down on the clutch, left hand putting the car into first gear, checking the mirrors, right foot lightly down on the accelerator, left hand operating the indicator lever, left foot slowly lifting off the clutch pedal to find the biting point… bdonk, bdonk, stalled engine. Oops, forgot to take the hand-brake off. That’s a lot like learning polo at first. There are a lot of things going on that need to be remembered. You are not likely to get it all right in one go.
Like learning to drive you are using your hands and legs in a different way to normal and this takes a little while to get used to. With repetition you develop muscle memory and like driving a car you start changing gear and steering without really thinking about it. When riding a horse this feels like it is reading your mind, but really it is reading the tiny adjustments you are subconsciously making.
Learning polo is slow at first. Like learning to drive you should get the basics mastered before you go down a dual carriage-way doing 40mph. It may take a while before it all starts to come together. Polo is harder to learn than driving a car. Balance, eye to ball skills, strength and fitness are not needed to drive a car!! You need to be patient because polo is a lot about your confidence. By spending time achieving a good solid platform (your riding seat and horse control) those elements will be managed through muscle memory and your subconscious which frees your mind to learn to play polo. Learning the swing, ball technique, hooking, riding off, and team play will come a lot quicker if you aren’t struggling with your seat or horse. It’s like when you learn to drive. Your instructor probably wont make you tackle a round-a-bout until you have the steering, braking and clutch control sorted. You need to be confident with those elements so you can concentrate on making correct decisions about entering flowing traffic and maneuvering through it.
Like driving, once the basics are mastered you need to become more aware of the space around you, to the left and the right as well as in front and behind. This is when the more complex rules of polo are introduced to you. At first when learning to drive the only rule is keep to the left and do what the instructor tells you, but as you go on you start learning about road signs that tell you the speed limit and to give way etc. Polo also has a complex set of rules that are often likened to the highway code. Fouling by crossing a player’s right of way is frequently referred to as like cutting someone up by switching lanes on the motorway. There aren’t any road signs in polo so you need to learn to observe and anticipate what is happening around you.
Polo is a lot like driving a car. Once you start you wont know how you can live without it.