"Polo, one of the oldest equestrian sports in the world –- also referred to as “The Game of Kings” –- is full of thrills, teamwork, technique and true sportsmanship. The game is played at intense high speed, requiring peak athletic conditioning of both horse and rider. Today, the level of play and the amount of polo being played is the highest in the game’s history, generating rapid global expansion in participation and spectatorship." -US Polo Association
Polo's origin was to help mounted warriors increase their skill on horseback. Credit goes to the Sassanian Empire (224-651 C.E.), which was an Iranian dynasty, for the oldest artifacts and recorded history of polo that can be traced. A great web site for more information is Polo 101, they even have nice short history article.
While polo is fascinating with a rich history, it is also male dominated. But there are a few incredible female polo players who more than hold their own. Our book review is on Let's Talk Polo... by Sunny Hale, who is one of those incredible female polo players. Her accomplishments are nothing short of amazing athleticism and mental toughness! She is an equestrian whose story and experience are inspirational and worth the read regardless of your discipline.
To be a great polo player you must truly be a student of the game and especially be open to having your ego run over a few times so you can learn new things.
Let's Talk Polo is the first book in a three part series. It is broken down into eleven chapters which cover a wide range of foundation topics for playing and practicing polo, but each chapter flows nicely from one to the other. Ms. Hale has really condensed core concepts and tips to get you started in a good direction, or even upping your game, for becoming a better polo player. What we enjoyed about this book is that while it is strictly polo focused you can apply her sound advice to your own riding and competition goals, regardless of discipline.
- Chapter 1: Let's Do This
- Chapter 2: Stick n Ball
- Chapter 3: Practice Games
- Chapter 4: The Language of Polo
- Chapter 5: Tournament Games
- Chapter 6: Polo Ponies
- Chapter 7: Your Handicap
- Chapter 8: Polo Mallets
- Chapter 9: Polo Tips
- Chapter 10: Summary
- Chapter 11: Who is Sunny Hale
The first few chapters were a great pep talk about goals and mindset, which is hugely important no matter what your ride looks like. One such talk was centered around assessing how much time you get to ride, which means how much time you actually get to dedicate to practice. This concept stuck out because it is one that many overlook. Whatever time you have available is basically the time you have to improve on your skills. So if you want to get better, use that time wisely and be specific about what you want to accomplish. That will create a clearer picture of how to get there.
Do you know what your training session, or lesson, is for? Is it for increasing and perfecting your own riding skills or is it to increase and perfect your horse's skills? Too often we simply go out and get in the saddle without a clear goal in mind, thinking "I'll work on whatever". That is not a good approach. It is true you're always working on yourself in a sense, but if you know you don't have a good seat, or confidence, or quiet hands, or good contact ... you should be working on those things specifically. Only when you and your horse are in shape/conditioned and mentally ready should you push to the next skill set to see what you can do together. That way you will be more productive and enjoy seeing yourself and/or your horse improve. Knowing what your practice/lesson is for and what stage of fitness your horse is at will help you keep your partnership in peak performance. Approaching your training this way will also sensitize you to learn when you're taking it easy and when you're pushing your limits with your horse.
A great training tip was to find a rider or trainer whose style you like, then really study them and try to emulate their skills. Or at least have them as a mental image for you to work towards. Positive mental reinforcement is crucial to actually getting your performance to the next level and where you want it to be.
We really enjoyed the stick and ball drills outlined for improving skills, they not only helped hone technique but also helped problem solve. Ms. Hale's training approach is to always be critical, and honest, of what you're good at and what you need to work on. The gap in between the two is what she considers your "construction zone", where you do the hard work. You'll never be stellar at every skill set, so take the time to identify what you are good at and what you are comfortable just being OK at, and what you really need to improve upon. Make a plan from that list and attack it with the time you have available for your practice/lessons.
The discovery of what you are missing and the pursuit of building confidence in those areas, through constructive practice, is how you build quality habits and improve your overall skill level.
Even with all the advice and game pointers Ms. Hale goes through, the biggest thing to take away from her book is the fact that good horses and knowing how to ride and care for them are everything to being a great polo player. That goes with simply being a good equestrian! Horsemanship is everything, not just knowing how to ride, but how to ride well and caring for your horse on the ground too.
Horsemanship is the connection between the human and equine athlete. No matter your current level of polo, horsemanship and your attention to it is where you will find the greatest satisfaction and passion.
We highly recommend this book if you're just staring out in polo, or want to improve on your game. If you're interested in reading about other disciplines this is also a recommended read as we felt it had great cross-over advice; especially with how to break down your own skills for improvement.
Trivia time! The oldest polo club in the world still active today is the Calcutta Polo Club, established in 1862, and is based in Kolkata, India. The United States Polo Association (USPA), originally called The Polo Association, was formally established in 1890 and headquartered in New York. The Westchester Polo Club was the first official polo club established under USPA the same year, it is also the oldest active club having been originally formed in 1876 in Newport, Rhode Island, by New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett. However two other clubs claim they are the oldest active clubs in the US, but the USPA does not agree: Myopia Polo Club est. in 1891 and Meadowbrook Polo Club est. in 1881.
Live. Love. Horses.