Things to do in London

Polo: You don’t need to be royalty to enjoy the sport of kings

08:34 25 May 2013

Reporter Sara tries out polo in Hurlingham Park

Reporter Sara tries out polo in Hurlingham Park

Archant

Often called the sport of kings, polo certainly conjures up images of rich folks in expensive frocks, swilling champagne.

Sara tries hitting the ball on the ground firstSara tries hitting the ball on the ground first

But strip away its elite reputation, and you have an exciting, skilful and fast-paced game that you don’t need a heavy wallet to enjoy.

Londoners have the perfect chance to watch the sport up close next month when Hurlingham Park in Putney hosts its annual MINT Polo in the Park, a three day tournament between June 7 and 9.

The park held regular polo fixtures before the Second World War, but in 1939 the fields were given over to the Dig for Victory food effort and for decades not a single game was played there.

However, in 2009 City Events Ltd decided to bring the sport back to its Putney roots and since then the tournament has become a popular date in the polo calendar.

Sara and a player on the opposite team chase the ballSara and a player on the opposite team chase the ball

As the organisers and riders prepare for the big event myself and a few others have been invited to the park by polo school Cool Hooves to try out the sport for ourselves.

Having ridden throughout my childhood, I feel pretty comfortable on a horse but navigating my mount while hitting a ball at the same time is another thing altogether.

A quick lesson from our coach, Andrew Murray, in how to hold the stick and strike the ball confirms my suspicions that I have little in the way of hand-eye coordination. I spectacularly miss the ball on a number of occasions and we’re not even in the saddle yet.

But remaining positive I jump on my steed, a pretty chestnut coloured pony called Pedrosa, and with reigns in one hand, stick in the other, I’m ready for action.

Gone are the proper, hard polo balls we just practised with, instead we’re given special soft orange balls that are twice the size. Fine with me – they’ll be much easier to hit I think.

Sadly this isn’t the case. At one point poor Pedrosa has to circle the ball five times as I try in vain to reach it.

Before long it’s time for a match and the group is divided into two teams of four. As everyone is new to the game, most of the rules are dispensed with - just get the ball in the goal says Andrew.

Once the match starts I suddenly forget I can’t play and I’m riding up and down the field with a new-found enthusiasm and energy, chasing after the ball, pushing other riders out of the way and feeling probably a little bit too competitive for a ‘friendly’ beginner’s game.

I say chasing as I rarely actually touch the ball, but who cares? I’m a having a great time.

As I look around I see the rest of the group are too, and many have never ridden before. There’s definitely something a little comic about us all scrambling rather unsuccessfully for the ball – you can just imagine the Benny Hill music in the background. But no one seems particularly bothered about what they look like, they’re having too much fun.

The game comes to an end and as I wander exhausted out of Hurlingham Park, I ponder my future in the sport. The royal princes and I enjoying a friendly hit-around while their grandma cheers us on from the sidelines? Time to book my next lesson.

Related articles

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Things to do in London

Friday, March 20, 2015
Battlefield Hardline: Live will have you hiding behind anything you can find to avoid being seen

Dying repeatedly on the virtual battlefield was, in hindsight, a clear indicator of how non-lethal I was about to be in real life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The multiplayer mode lets up to eight people get in on the action

You know the colourful light-up fountains in King’s Cross’ Granary Square? You can use your phone to control them in a huge game of Snake.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The floor where a murder took place (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A remarkable new exhibition on the history of forensics, featuring the floor where a man was killed, mortuary slabs and bullet-riddled brains is opening at the Wellcome Collection.

Friday, February 13, 2015
Visitors to the Magnificent Obsessions exhibition look at record covers collected by Mexican artist Dr Lakra  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

Even world-famous artists have a soft spot for the kitsch, the cheesy and even downright tat as this exhibition of their own collections goes on display at the Barbican.

Thursday, February 12, 2015
Tastes can be created at the push of a button using the electronic lolly (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

What drives our desire to eat? Is it our own appetite - or maybe it’s food tricking us into it, or the bacteria in our gut, or even the colour of the spoon we use.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
The beautiful Tropical Extravaganza at Kew Gardens

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, London24 reporter Dominic Gover selects the Top 5 most romantic places in London to take that special someone.

Don't Miss...

Quizzes

Fulham Wikipedia quiz

Prove your credentials as a true Fulham fan by taking our Whites Wikipedia quiz.

Read more
Crystal Palace Wikipedia quiz

Crystal Palace have had their fair share of legends down the years, with many former Eagles enjoying glittering careers.

Read more
Arsenal legend Tony Adams celebrates a goal against Manchester United at Highbury... will you be celebrating your quiz score? Picture: Allsport

This Arsenal history quiz will seperate the true fans from the rest. Test your knowledge of the Gunners’ illustrious history with 15 tricky teasers from London24.

Read more

What is this?

Near You Now