polo mens sweaters How a chukka can get you hooked
I first took up polo eight years ago on a trip to Argentina. It has long been my philosophy that no hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle, and I have dabbled in equestrian sports ranging from eventing to flat racing.But few sports can match the all consuming thrill of galloping up and down a 300 by 160 yard field waving a big stick. From my very first chukka I was, as the pun goes, ‘hooked’.Argentina has been polo’s spiritual home since British and Irish engineers introduced the sport in the late 19th century. There, it found fertile soil among the gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) and their brave, nimble horses. High goal matches are typically played over six chukkasHandicap: A player’s rating, based on their ability. Players are rating on a scale of 2 to 10, with 10 being the highestHook: Catching an opponent’s mallet in the act of a swing, stopping him from striking the ballPony: Any horse used for polo. Historically, the height for polo ponies was limited to 14.2 hands, but this limit was abolished in 1919Ride off: Pushing another player off the ball by using your horse to barge theirs out of the wayToday, several estancia (private estates) throughout Argentina offer fully immersive polo holidays, to which new entrants to the sport flock like pilgrims to the holy land. There, beginners can learn how to ride one handed, swing a mallet and swear in Spanish.The attraction of polo is easy to understand. From Jilly Cooper to Pretty Woman, polo has been used as shorthand to suggest a glamorous, dangerous world of sleek horses and brooding players.Traveling at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph), teams of four aim to drive the ball through a set of vertical posts to score a goal.Like all equestrian sports, men and women compete side by side, making it the only mixed sport which is also a contact sport: players can ‘ride off’ opponents by using their mount to barge the other player out of the way.Around 3,
000 people in the UK currently play polo, of which fewer than 10% are professionals, according to the Hurlingham Polo Association, the governing body for polo in the UK. I am firmly in the amateur camp, brandishing a 1 handicap which has shown no signs of budging off its mark for several years.Polo players are rated on a scale of 2 to 10 according to their skill, where 10 is the highest rating possible.It is so difficult to reach 10 there have never been more than a dozen or so 10 goalers in the world at any time. Almost all 10 goalers, past and present, have hailed from Argentina.One of these highly acclaimed individuals is 28 year old Facundo Pieres.Having held the ultimate ranking since the age of 19, Pieres is now ranked inside the top two in the world (he disputes the number one spot with fellow Argentinian Adolfo Cambiaso).During the English high goal season, Pieres plays for the all conquering Zacara team (which won the coveted Queen’s Cup this weekend). He gamely agreed to coach me and give me some pointers.The venue is Zacara’s private training facility, on a pitch so immaculate it would not look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show. As I prepare to take to the field I ask Pieres what he thinks is the most important quality in a player.Unsurprisingly, he cites horsemanship: “It’s all about feeling comfortable,” he says. “If you don’t feel comfortable on the horse you will not be able to hit the ball.”Magnifica, the 8 year old mare Pieres has lent me, is a dream to ride, with a canter as smooth as silk and the ability to turn on a sixpence.”She is one of the best ponies I have,” says Pieres. “Anyone can play her.” Subtext: even me! (Polo horses are still referred to as ponies, an alliterative hangover from the days when height limits applied).”The next most important thing to have is a straight, fluid swing,
” continues Pieres. He can loft the ball in excess of 100 yards while traveling at a flat out gallop.