Sports have never been my thing. I got cut from every team I tried out for in high school except for the debate team (Literally — soccer, lacrosse, basketball, field hockey and tennis), and can say with full confidence that I do not have a single athletic bone in my body. Despite this, I decided that it would be a good idea to learn how to play polo… a sport that takes place on top of horses.
Argentina is apparently “Mecca” for polo (The Telegraph’s word, not mine), and I’d heard that the clubs here are chock full of hotties, so last Saturday morning I hauled out to an “Estancia” to try my hand at not completely sucking at yet another physical activity.
I got off the bus at the Estancia (which, by the way, was stunning) and was immediately handed three empanadas and a full glass of wine. Mind you, it was 10:45 in the morning, but I was hungover as hell so was basically in heaven.
… Please keep in mind that from here on out, the alcohol was flowing realllllly freely.
The first activity of our #poloday was to watch an actual professional match so we could learn the rules of the game. Most of us (myself included) had only ever seen polo in Pretty Woman, so we really had no idea WTF it actually was aside from the fact that there were horses involved. As it turns out, it is really intense. The match started with a dozen HUGE horses sprinting at full speed while their riders (jockeys?) swung mallets at each other and somehow didn’t fall off. TBH, I wasn’t totally sure what was going on, and ended up spending most of the match doing a tractor photoshoot with my friend Mike. In case you don’t know, this is what a “tractor photoshoot” looks like:
Between each “Chukka” — the polo term for “round” that I just had to Google because I already forgot it — we ran drills with one of the coaches to get us horse-ready. It was basically the equivalent of when you learn to surf (another sport I’m terrible at) on dry land before you’re allowed to get in the ocean. We had our own little mallets, and ran up and down the field hitting the balls looking like a bunch of drunk idiots playing croquet… which was actually exactly what we were.
“This isn’t that hard!” I said, bouncing down the field in a crop top.
“Nah it’s fine,” said my friend Mei, who was wearing high heels.
After the match/drills/three more glasses of wine, it was time for an Asado lunch… Or as I like to call it, a meat parade. They brought out course after course of the saltiest, most delicious chicken, beef and pork ever, which we obviously washed down with Malbec.
SO, 7,0000 pounds of meat and five glasses of wine later, it was time to play polo. What could possibly go wrong?!
First, it was time to get suited up. They gave us jerseys that smelled like a middle school gym locker room, helmets that were almost definitely crawling with bugs, and these weird leg chaps that kind made me feel like I was starring in a cowboy porn. Needless to say, I looked hot.
Next, it was time to meet the horses. Somehow, I got the biggest one. When I tried to beg for another, littler pony (ideally a white one that matched my weird outfit…) the coach laughed in my face and nicknamed me “Problem Child.” Great.
Then, MUCH to my surprise, it was time to play polo. There was apparently no more off-the-horse training involved, and 15 drunk people and their horses were set loose onto the field armed with mallets and no idea what they were doing. Thankfully, we had a few minutes to practice hitting balls before the match started, and no one could figure out how to get their horses to move so the average maximum speed was somewhere around 2MPH, but I was nottttt into it.
IMHO, the reason why I’ve always been so bad at all of those other sports is because I’m afraid of the ball. In polo, there is a lot more to be afraid (read: deeply terrified) of than just some stupid ball. There are mallets flying at your face from all angles, and 1,000 lb live animals stomping around everywhere. I was convinced that I was going to finish the day with a broken nose or cracked rib.
“Problem child! Get in there!” the coach kept yelling at me while I sat back and watched my friends swing at the ball and miss, only narrowly avoiding each other’s faces.
“I’m good!” I replied while my horse ate grass and my arms got tan.
But then, a really cute British polo player came out and I wanted him to think I was cool and athletic (spoiler alert: he did not.) so I decided to at least try to bring my A-Game.
I rode horses as a kid, so know the basics of how to trot/post/not fall off, and after the first few minutes felt like I’d gotten my groove back. Soon, my massive pony and I were cruising down the field like straight-up champions, and I felt like one of the sexy equestrian girls from a Ralph Lauren ad. Every time I went to hit the ball, though, it looked like this:
Thankfully, everyone was as bad as I was (… or they were just too drunk to see straight enough to hit the ball), so when it came time to start the actual match I wasn’t cut from yet another team in my life. But if I thought the practice round was fking terrifying, the match itself was my worst nightmare. Everyone was trying to hit the same ball all at once (I guess that’s how #sports work), which meant all of the horses stopped in within inches of each other and people just swung their mallets like crazy, hoping to make contact. We looked like a group of 3-year-olds trying to figure out how to kick the ball during a soccer game, except that we had WEAPONS.
At one point, I accidentally swung mine into my friend Mike and pulled him 80% of the way off of his horse, which… sorry Mike.
Nevertheless, my team actually won (at least, I think. I stopped paying attention after the first two rounds and let my horse get back to eating grass) and I ended up successfully hitting the ball more times than I ever would have thought possible (so, twice). Even so, the British guy couuuuuld not have been less interested, but he did tell me my post-match hair flip looked “straight out of a shampoo commercial” so at least I’ll always have that fond memory of our day together. And also, there were puppies:
… Maybe there’s another sport for me to try in Chile?