POLO: THE SPORT OF KINGS
Polo, once seen as a sport dominated by kings and the ruling class originally dating back to 600 BC, has never enjoyed the mass appeal it has today. It is estimated that there are 1 billion polo fans worldwide and the sport is played in over 90 countries.
The popularity of polo is buoyed on even more by the fact that in this gorgeous Spanish climate, every day is geared towards being outside in the sunshine and beautiful, lush green grass setting of the polo fields, where people can soak up the atmosphere, speed and thrill of a high octane polo game.
Polo is considered one of the most exhilarating and addictive sports in the world and it has never been easier for us normal, everyday folk to play. Maybe you have already been sitting on the sidelines watching a polo match with a touch of envy? Well not anymore. Polo Valley in Sotogrande will get you into the saddle.
It’s easy to start polo and become a polo player, and Polo Valley can guarantee you will love it. If you are already an experienced player and have the polo bug, Polo Valley in Sotogrande, is the place where you can practice, improve and have fun.
Plus, Sotogrande (just a short 30 minute drive from Marbella) has it all for the discerning polo fan or player. Steeped in history with the first world famous Gold Cup matching starting in 1971, it is one of the foremost important places on the world map of polo. This year’s 47th International Tournament attracted the world’s best teams, players, fans and media coverage in all the major countries of Europe, Latin America and the US.
Marbella Rocks had the pleasure of catching up with Polo Valley Director Chris Byrne to find out more about the services Polo Valley has to offer.
How long has Polo Valley in Sotogrande been running?
Polo Valley has been open for two years now. We built the facility in 2015 and opened at the start of 2016. Now in our second operational year, we have expanded our team and acquired more ponies and have some exciting plans for 2018. It’s great to hear the positive feedback from clients and to see so many of them returning for more of the Polo Valley experience.
And how long has Powder Byrne, the organisation behind Polo Valley been going for?
Powder Byrne, the luxury holiday company behind Polo Valley was established in 1985. As you can imagine, Powder Byrne bring an experienced team of experts to our new enterprise.
What was the goal when starting Polo Valley?
Our goal is simple – to get more people learning and playing polo. We believe that polo is undoubtedly the most addictive sport in the world, not only the sport itself but the lifestyle too. The problem is that polo as a sport is incredibly inaccessible – and that’s what we at Polo Valley want to change. Anyone can learn to play polo.
Do you run courses for any age group?
Our minimum age for children, mainly for safety reasons is seven years old. Other than our specifically designed children programmes, our client’s typically range from mid/early twenties to late fifties however we have no age restrictions. Due to our different programmes and team of coaches we are able to cater for a range of clients whether they are sessions exclusively for children, families or adults/individuals.
Could this be something for the whole family to try?
Absolutely. We have had several families stay and play with us this year and they have absolutely loved the experience, and have since re-booked for more polo action in 2018. Family sessions are something we love to organise, the different ability levels within a family can easily be worked into our lesson programme. Family sessions are a great way to get the whole family together and to really enjoy either a one-off experience day or to pick up a new family passion all together.
And do you have courses for any ability of polo player?
Yes we do, clients book beginner or player polo days depending on ability and we always split morning sessions and practise matches into beginner and player groups to ensure the appropriate environment, tuition and horses are allocated to each player.
How big is the staffing team at Polo Valley Sotogrande?
Currently the team is made up of 15 -20 people depending on the season.
Where do you enlist your teachers?
A lot of time and thought goes into recruiting the right coach for lessons here at Polo Valley, they have to be professional, experienced and have a real passion for teaching and polo of course. Tom Meyrick is our resident Polo Manager and coach, we also work with several local coaches and professional players: Diogo, a 5 goal professional from Portugal, who is based in Sotogrande all year round as well as Hernan Pieres a 3 goal Argentine player from the famous ‘Pieres’ polo dynasty.
Have any of them been world class polo players?
Yes, each coach has played to a very high standard and achieved great success at different points in their polo careers.
If so who and who did they play for?
An example would be Tom playing the Queens Cup for Zacara. Polo players play for many teams throughout their careers and even each season most play for several teams.
Polo is described as one of the most fun and exhilarating sports in the world – is learning the game as fun?
Learning the game is extremely addictive. The feeling of connecting with the ball is indescribably satisfying; after your first lesson there is an urge to practise and improve as much as possible. It has everything you could possibly want in a sport or hobby – it’s exhilarating and addictive, requires teamwork and skill and you must develop a bond/relationship with your ponies.
If someone who had never had riding experience wanted to play polo – how long would it take them to learn?
That is very dependent on the individual and how much time, effort and resources they would like to put into it but with the right mentality and openness to learn we can and have take someone completely new to the sport/riding and get them playing controlled matches within 2 days of first picking up a polo mallet. The combination of easy, safe horses and excellent coaching means that we pride ourselves on kick starting polo careers.
Sotogrande is synonymous with world class polo – hosting the Gold, Silver and Bronze Cups with matches every weekend March to September. Is this an added draw to Polo Valley?
Absolutely. People come to watch polo at Santa Maria and then can come to give it a go with us. Our set up is very complimentary to the High, Medium and Low goal tournaments – most people never consider polo is something they can actually take up themselves, until they realise that with us at Polo Valley it’s absolutely possible.
What polo fields do your participants play on?
We have a perfectly manicured Tifton polo field at our property for guests to learn and play on. We also work with Santa Maria and use their facilities and fields for special events and tournaments.
For those coming to experience a week at Polo Valley – where would they enjoy accommodation?
If relaxation and ease of location is a priority then guests always enjoy staying onsite at our guest house at Polo Valley. There is a great atmosphere onsite, where you can soak up the polo lifestyle. The unique setting amongst the horses, palm trees and nearby river make for a very special environment, despite only being a short 15 minutes drive from the centre of Sotogrande.
Polo is also described as the Sport of Kings. Many joke because it is so expensive. How much do courses start from at Polo Valley?
A polo lesson costs €150 ex vat and runs for slightly over an hour with one of our coaches. An intense beginner week (morning and afternoon sessions, 6 times a week) comes to €2,100 ex vat.
POLO: RULES OF PLAY
It is not as hard as you may think
- A polo match lasts between 4 and 8 chukkers. One chukker is 7 minutes of play.
- Ends are changed after every goal.
- The most important rule is right of way. During play there is an imaginary line of ball. When a player has established that line, if another player crosses it close enough to be dangerous or causes the first player to slow, a foul is committed and a penalty given.
- A player may use his horse to push another player away from the ball, or hook an opponent’s stick
- There is a half time interval during which spectators are expected to “tread in”, or stomp back the divots.
- Handicaps range from -2 to the perfect 10.
Enquire today and begin your polo experience by visiting www.polovalley.co.uk or call +34 951 979 528.