How to improve your polo if…. you don’t have polo?
You miss polo? No polo where you live? No polo in your country and you can only play abroad? I understand your situation perfectly. Where I live, in Sotogrande, in the south of Spain, there is no polo for people like me. You will say: “But that is the mecca of European polo!” Wrong!
Yes, we have 3 big polo clubs here, but the season is extremely short, the level of polo is too demanding, serious and professional and that is no fun for me; besides, the expenses for polo here compared with other parts of the world are just beyond my understanding.
The only good thing that we have here is a fantastic new private polo school which is the home for me and my horses. By the way, if you would like to learn polo in Sotogrande, just drop us an email and we will provide you with a special discount code for polo holidays in Sotogrande.
The school is open from March to October. I am currently a zero goal player, and very much enjoy being with people from the school, having fun, playing friendly chukkers and having barbecues at weekends.
However, for the tournaments, I prefer to travel and play in different places like Madrid, Zurich, Ibiza, Rome, Sevilla and so on.
Anyway, between October and March, we have NO polo in Sotogrande, which is why I have created my own programme of how to stay fit and be ready for the summer season. Have a look and maybe it can help you, too? I would like to share my personal experience with you; have a look, maybe you like it – or not – you choose.
1. Don’t stop riding. Practice any horse riding sport you like. 4 months ago I started jumping from 0 cm and now I can jump 1m obstacles. It really improves your riding skills and keeps you fit, and you will not endure the muscle pain that you would normally have after a long absence.
A show jumper must have the scope and courage to jump fences as well as the athletic ability to handle the sharp turns and bursts of speed necessary to navigate the most difficult courses.
Show jumping is the only sport where the two compete together: the horse and the rider: no partners, no team. The rider is not just any fellow sitting on the horse. The rider is more than a pilot. On the course, the eye of the rider and his ability to make quick decisions are as important as the skill of the horse, his physical aptitude, his carefulness, and so on. Does it sound familiar to polo? Correct! It will really help you to understand your polo horse better, to take fast decisions and to stay calm during the chukkers! Besides, show jumping is four times cheaper than polo.
Good argument, no?!
2. Practice Tennis Polo. Just take a hand mallet and a couple of tennis balls and hit the ball against the wall. That’s it – in this way you will improve your coordination and control over the ball. Hand-Eye Coordination is the key to this exercise. Practice with your left hand, it’s more challenging. Play with your kids, they love it and, actually, they are very talented, you will be surprised. It took me about two weeks to start hitting the ball correctly and, to tell you the truth, I could not even imagine that this simple exercise would be so difficult to complete.
3. Work on your balance. The best way to do it is to practice the sport like skateboarding or surfing. Is it too difficult for you? No worries, I have found the alternative. Meet the body balance board. Balance boards are a great multipurpose tool that can help improve balance in polo. Whether you are just looking to feel more sure-footed in your daily routine, rehabbing from an injury, or looking to intensify your existing workout by engaging more muscles during common exercises, the balance board will produce results fast!
I found this fantastic piece of equipment in Tarifa – the mecca for kite-surfers. You can put it in your room or kitchen and train your balance with a cup of tea in your hand. I was told that this board helps a lot, so I decided to adapt it for polo, and to have a look at the result. I can stay on the board for a long time, moving the weight of my body left and right, learning the knees and even jumping! It’s challenging, but FUN! Want to learn more, email me! The market price for a good quality board to a standard design starts from 150 euros, POLO LADY can offer you the board made to your own design, just for 100 Euros. Don’t miss the chance to order your personal, unique Body Balance board!
4. Do you have weak fingers and need to strengthen them to hold the mallet that requires flexibility? Do you want to have a better grip? How about hooking the pro? Do you need more power to do that? The right exercises can help improve flexibility, suppleness, and strength of the joints to help people perform everything from basic activities of daily living to higher level physical activities.
For a grip-strengthening exercise, hold a soft ball in your palm and squeeze it hard for five seconds before releasing your grip. Work your way up to 10–15 repetitions, performed two to three times weekly. It is important to give yourself two days’ rest between grip-strengthening sessions.
You can also purchase a special strength-training item such as Fat Gripz. Do it daily, just put it in the car and do it while driving to pick up kids from school…
5. Use a Segway to improve the contact with the ball and control of the ball. The Segway requires more coordination and balance, especially when learning and offers you the self-balancing ease of use; it can help improve balance and coordination, too.
Play with friends and kids; it’s such a lot of fun! We even organize competitions over the weekend. Play on full speed, practice turns, stops, neck shot etc. and even ride off! The price of a Segway is 190 euros; the price of playing a chukker in Santa Maria Polo club, Sotogrande. Don’t hesitate, buy a Segway and enjoy it!
6.Take polo easy; relax about stress and pressure. In the beginning, I took polo too seriously, training myself like crazy, buying and selling horses and competing against the professional polo players of Sotogrande. That was so stupid. I admire professional players, they are really great. But it’s not my way. I play for fun. I’ll never be a professional player; I do not want to compete with men because I am primarily a woman and a mother. And I am proud of it. As soon as I realized this, my polo improved tenfold.
Unless you are a professional player, earning a living by playing polo, do not take it too seriously. And you will see how relaxed you will be, playing better and having fun instead of suffering from stress.
Hope my experience helps you and look forward to seeing you on the fields with a smile on your face and adrenaline surging through your body!
Katya Prunkova ( Editor)