Polo Like a Pro

You don’t need previous experience or a fat wallet to enjoy the sport of the royals.

by Rachel McArthur

There’s no doubt that polo is one of the most fascinating sports in the world. Not only is it extremely challenging (it takes patience to master how to ride a horse and control a ball with a mallet after all), the fact that it attracts some of the world’s most famous businessmen and royal figures (Mohammed Al Habtoor, and Princes Charles, Harry and William are fans) makes it feel even more exclusive.

Fortunately, being born into wealth is not a prerequisite to getting into polo in the UAE. In fact, unlike other sports that require you to start practising from childhood, individuals of all ages can enjoy a game as I recently found out at Desert Palm, Dubai. The ultra-chic, boutique property, from Per AQUUM now offers budding polo players and equestrians the chance to learn and master the game on its beautiful pitches (the property hosts the annual Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge).

There’s no need to be a member of a fancy polo club or access to your own horse; Desert Palm offers everything from basic mallet and ball technique to full polo lessons lasting up to 45 minutes. You don’t even have to possess previous riding experience as the instructors can even teach you how to get comfortable on a horse and how to interact with your polo companion.

I decided to start with the basics. Although I know how to ride a horse, I felt that it was important to learn the basics first… and it’s definitely more difficult than it looks! Not only was I having to concentrate on leaning to one side of my horse without falling off (okay, so I wasn’t in any danger of actually taking a tumble, but it certainly felt that way), there’s also the immense skill required to not miss the small ball on the ground. Think of it as playing a game of golf on a horse.

Once I was in the swing of things, it definitely started getting easier and the on-hands guidance from the polo instructors was tremendously useful. Having initially been under the impression that polo was ultra exclusive, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that it is accessible and fun. I’ll be looking to return to take on some more intensive lessons in the future I think!

For the more experienced riders, there is the chance to ride in a fully competitive chukka – a-seven-and-a-half minute period of play with other players – but I left that to the pros.

Lessons start from Dhs.300 for a stick and ball lesson to around Dhs.655 for a 45-minute lesson. Meanwhile, for those who prefer a little less competition, the equestrian facilities at Desert Palm offer other types of horse riding, ranging from dressage to hacks around the surrounding area. For more information, visit Desert Palm’s website.

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