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Against The Current

Against The Current

polo femenino

It is rare to see a woman riding a horse at a polo tournament, but even rarer to see one outside the fields. There are hardly any women grooms in the world but Patricia Vallejo, the young carer of Mummy Bellande in Argentina, says that this tendency can be reverted.

Patricia Vallejo with horses

Colonia Hocker is a village in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina, estimated to have less than 100 inhabitants. A building in a big city houses more people than in this village.

This distant place gave birth to a person that we can describe, without being offensive, of course, as strange: Patricia Vallejo. This 21-year-old blonde woman is one of the few women grooms who operate today in the restricted circles of polo. She has been working for years for Mummy Bellande, one of the greatest stars in Argentina (she has 7 goals) and looks after her horses as if they were her own.

Polo is, in itself, a sport where men dominate and the stable is a circle completely reserved to them. It is not strange to hear Pato say that her beginnings were not easy.

I was raised in the countryside. My parents worked in different ranches, my brother and I grew up with horses. Since then, I have wanted to work with them. Being a groom was not easy at first, because everybody (all the men) laughed at me. They did not believe a woman could do this. But in time, they saw I got on easily.

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When did you decide to work with horses?

“I have always wanted to work in something related to horses. One day, I was offered to work with Mummy and I had no doubts about it. I learn every day, I visit different places, and I have also made good friends.”

What are your tips on looking after horses?

“Feed them well, groom them, change them every day. At the same time, cure them if they are injured and make sure they have enough rest.”

This young woman does not only get on well with grooming the horses, but she has also started riding on them. “I have started playing; I practice calmly from time to time. Mummy helps in organizing. I also play football in my free time,” Pato says.

When asked why there are so few women grooms, she asserts, “It is not easy that people (or men) trust women to be able to do it. In my case, I was lucky that Mummy supported, trusted, and took the time to teach me. This job requires dedication, effort, and is difficult as you are far from your family and friends all year.”

“I think more women are going to be motivated because they can also do this. Very soon, the idea that only men can be grooms will disappear,” she firmly believes.

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How long do you spend a day with the horses in Pilar?

“It is a job you must like very much because you work from Monday to Sunday. In Pilar, I am with horses all the time. I live in the stables. It is a beautiful job but it is not a job that anybody can do as it requires a lot of time and dedication.”

The words of this enthusiastic and excited woman are supported by no less than her boss. Mummy is nearly an institution in Argentinian women polo and she is responsible for placing Patricia where she is. However, it was not planned. “I always had men grooms and her arrival was a very special coincidence. I knew Pato’s father and brother. They are horse riders in the fields we have in Entre Ríos and she used to come to see the horses with her family when she was a little girl. Then, she came to ask for any kind of work because she did not have the courage to ask me for a job with the horses”, says Mummy with devotion.

“The truth is, I underestimated that a woman could work with horses because it is an environment dominated by men. However, Pato is very special and she is well-mannered. She loves horses just like me and she looks after them as if they were her own. She is very responsible and her life is devoted to horses like her father and brother,” says the player, adding, “My horses are hers now (when it comes to looking after them) and I cannot have another assistant as they do not want anybody except her.”

In the middle of the talk, Mummy is asked about the possibility of more women joining in this activity. She said that it depends on the personality of each girl—some girls may take it as a job and others like Pato may do it as a passion for horses.

I think women could get on well in this job because they have a different touch with horses. Little Pato changed my life. There are things I talk to her about in the middle of a polo game that I might not talk about with men. Today, I go into the stables happily, and when I travel, I know she is my eyes there. She is practically tied to the horses. She is crazy for them. – Mummy Bellande

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