Learn to play polo: You don't have to be posh to try this noble sport
What’s On has a polo lesson in Dubai, at Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club in Studio City. Find out about polo lessons in Dubai and other polo events in Dubai.
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Polo is a posh sport played by princes, right? Well, yes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you don’t live in a castle you can take a beginner’s lesson at the beautiful Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club in Studio City.
Steve Thompson has been a highly respected international polo coach for more than 20 years and runs The Dubai Polo Academy, the only polo school in the UAE. We’re sure Steve wouldn’t mind us saying that he is not posh.
For a start, he describes the polo pony assigned to us for our lesson as a “furry jet ski”. The pony’s real name is Tatu and we’re assured that he is the safest thing on four legs in the land.
Steve casually adds that, by the end of our 90-minute lesson, we’ll be cantering around the polo field, hitting a ball with a mallet. Really?
Before hopping on board Tatu, we are handed a helmet, chaps to wear around our ankles, and a smaller version of a regular polo mallet. Fifteen minutes is spent standing on a plastic mat with a photograph of a horse on it to get the gist of how and where to swing the mallet. After one misdirected swipe, Steve cheerfully tells us, “OK, you’ve just hit your horse in the face.” Oops.
The mats are packed away, Tatu appears and the riding begins. You don’t need horse riding experience to try a lesson, although it certainly would help. However, you must be over 16, and weigh less than 100kg.
Steve uses car analogies to help us manoeuvre Tatu, whose reputation for being a steady ride turns out to be well-deserved. “Pull the reins back to put the brakes on,” “careful you don’t land on the dashboard”, “imagine you’re going round a roundabout” and “give it a bit more gas” are clever ways of telling us how to ride.
Tatu begins to walk, then trot, then canter, which gets the adrenaline surging. Suddenly we have a full-sized mallet in our hand and we’re swinging at an imaginary ball. Steve rides alongside, chattering instructions: “Imagine your arm is a sliding door, pull it backwards, extend your arm, get that left shoulder down, squeeze the left thigh, wait, and… swing!”
It quickly becomes apparent that playing polo has a lot to do with body mechanics. There are a lot of things to remember: knees back, toes up, heels down, ribcage open, shoulders back, head up, twist your pelvis. At times it felt like we were body-popping in a 1980s disco as our body jerked around to find the correct position.
A little while later and, sweating profusely, a white polo ball appears in the distance. With Steve’s tips echoing in our head, we canter towards it… slide the arm back… dip the left shoulder… swing the mallet, and – THWACK! A clean hit. Steve almost falls off his horse in shock. We’re pretty sure Tatu raised an eyebrow too. A few more attempts aren’t as successful, but who cares, because the speed of our progress is, quite frankly, amazing.
Steve is a brilliant and very funny coach, offering encouragement when we make a howler and chuckling when Tatu wanders in the direction of his stable to get his breakfast, despite our desperate attempts to steer him back towards the polo field. At Dhs850 for 90 minutes, the price of a lesson might be a bit posh, but the experience isn’t. Hop on a furry jet ski and give it a shot.
Dubai Polo Academy, Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, Studio City, Dubai, Fri and Sat 4pm, Dhs850. Tel: (050) 8879847. Taxi: Studio City. dubaipoloacademy.com