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, July 31, 2015
Free live music event for the whole community in Hackney (Picture: Acoustic Sunday)

An afternoon of live music will be echoing around Hackney on August 2, featuring new talent, plenty of food and a lot of community spirit.

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Freerunning summer camps will run in July and August (Picture: Kelly Reeves Photography)

London24 got an exclusive interview with Sebastien Foucan, freerunning founder and James Bond movie star, on his daredevil experiences and why he has brought London its first trampoline park.

Monday, July 13, 2015
The Minerva Bath at Thermae Btah Spa

Hampered by building delays, soaring costs and rows over peeling paint, Bath’s Thermae Spa was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
You can run as nature intended or get messy with tiger-themed body paint (Photo: Johnny Green

)

London Zoo is asking people to swap their clothes for tigerstripe body paint in a naked charity jog around the wildlife park.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
(Picture by Olivier Ouadah)

The masked superheroes of Mexico will do battle in Bethnal Green’s York Hall next weekend in a three-day extravaganza.

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Secret Cinema disappointed fans again

Secret Cinema organisers had yet another marred opening night at one of their events this evening which resulted in them offering compensation to fans.

Don't Miss...

What is this?

Near You Now

Competitions

Get your hands on some fresh trainers!

Need some new shoes to head to work or some new heels for a night on the cobbles? London24 has teamed up with online retailer Sole Trader to offer £100 worth of shoes to one lucky reader.

Read more
Take in the stunning sites of London from the summit of the O2!

Up at The O2 has teamed up with London24 to give one lucky reader the chance to experience urban mountaineering this summer with an exhilarating 90-minute climb across the roof of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Read more
Terrific tea, creamy cakes and splendid sandwiches at Mews of Mayfair.

Celebrate a truly quintessentially British tradition with the chance of winning a luxurious Afternoon Tea for two people at Mews of Mayfair, complete with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Read more