More Pony For Your Wonga
“I thank David Beckham for the burgeoning interest in polo,” says Georgiana Crofton, the horsey version of Emma Thompson and my polo teacher for the day at Adrenalin Polo Club in Windsor. “He’s made it alright to have lots of money and spend it, and that has made polo accessible!”
I’m not sure what Beckham would think of being thanked for bringing polo to the masses, but the fact remains that today, anyone can play polo for an afternoon for no more than £70; something quite at odds with the exclusive, hoity-toity reputation that has accompanied the sport in previous years.
So, here I am in Beckinghamshire – sorry, Buckinghamshire – for a day of purely non-elitist fun. I’m at the Adrenalin Polo Club, the stomping ground of Argentinian four-goal player, Oscar Mancini, who will join us for a chukka in the afternoon. But for the time being Oscar is concentrating on his mate (a South American tea that tastes and looks like hay) and it’s lesson time for me.
The day starts with a two-hour session of polo instruction (and riding instruction, should you need it) with Georgiana. First we are in a riding school, practicing sharp turns and sudden stops, then it’s time to hit the field for some stick and balling.
“Disassociate from the ball and you will start to hit it,” shouts Georgiana, who is a zero-goal player (ratings start at minus two and go up to ten). “Relax and don’t be so intent on hitting it!”
Oddly, I find I’m better at a canter than a walk since the momentum helps, but I still take some big swings that hit nothing but air.
“It’s good if you’ve played golf,” continues Georgiana. “But for girls I usually say imagine it’s an ex-boyfriend’s head you’re trying to hit – it always makes them send the ball flying!”
Two hours whiz past and it’s time for lunch at the Cottage Inn, a proper English country pub with gingham table clothes, a loo like a beauty parlour, and two glammed-up cougars serving behind the bar. The food is excellent, especially the lamb, and a half-pint of shandy slips down nicely – Georgiana did say the key is to relax.
Back at the yard, a groom brings us our horses and we heave our full bellies back into the saddle. Turns out I’m not at all bad with a chukka. I actually score. A goal. For real. On the field there’s no time to think: this is pure Jilly Cooper-style escapism and it’s very addictive.