By Emily Hurst
In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, none of us knew how our lives would change. Neither were we aware of what our worlds would look like, if and when, the pandemic ever subsided.
Two years later, we think it’s a valuable learning experience to look back to, what with all the things us polo ladies have learned during the pandemic. German polo player Conny Haufele, who is married to an Argentine, thought the same.
She is one of the fortunate female polo players who got to follow summer weather around the world, splitting her time between Germany and Argentina. Discovering polo 11 years ago while studying for her MBA in England, she was instantly hooked—like so many of us. Her home club is Centauros in Pilar, Argentina, and she breeds and trains polo ponies with her husband.
She also runs their bed & breakfast “The Polo House”. All these while proudly sashaying her 3-goal ladies handicap status and being a constant presence in tournaments in Italy, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Argentina, and Mexico.
When COVID-19 hit, Conny was locked down at home in Argentina. She describes the first four weeks as a drastic lockdown. During that time, they had almost no ability to leave home, except for essential trips to the supermarket, pharmacy, or the hospital.
Fortunately, Conny and her husband have kept a busy schedule accommodating guests who were likewise stuck with them at “The Polo House”. It’s also a good thing that their property have stables, and their neighbor’s camp also gave them places to ride young horses. And as many of us have done, they also found ways to play polo.
Conny describes the first weeks in lockdown to have, “Lots of horses—horses everyday. First riding, later polo!” she exclaims.She also adds that she was very happy to have been locked down in Argentina surrounded by dogs and horses.
“No day was boring. There was always so much to do. The youngsters learned so much. I think we actually ‘won’ a year on them as when the season started. They were all okay to integrate them into club chukkers,” the lady player further shares.
While the horses thrived during the lockdown, the bed and breakfast faced new challenges they had to find ways to conquer. “We had a guest staying when the country decided to lockdown. He couldn’t understand that there was no activity allowed, that there was no polo going on. Or that he couldn’t just go to the camp or another province to find a place to stay where they do family polo,” the lady boss muses.
Thus, they came up with new activities to occupy both themselves and their remaining guests at the B&B. They did foot mallet polo, took part in the toilet paper polo challenge, and spent hours riding in their neighbor’s camp. “At first, we couldn’t invent enough activities to reinvent us. Later on, we almost couldn’t cope with the amount of activities created!” she happily reports.
Now, looking at the sport of polo as a whole and how it’s been changed by the pandemic, Conny thinks that it helped expand our perspective. “I think polo has grown after the pandemic. People are more aware of quality time and the benefits of being outside and interacting with animals and other people.”
Things like social connections—which most of us may have taken for granted —have been remembered again. And polo has played a role in that: in uniting families.
Polo has been incorporated in other activities as well. For instance, Roda Polo, or polo on one wheel. Conny points out how it has become very popular lately, and kids and families that had never been involved in polo previously are now involved.
While polo and training young polo ponies occupied a fair amount of Conny’s time during the pandemic, yoga also played a role in her day-to-day. She also found time to complete her yoga teacher training certification!
For her, yoga is a perfect match for polo because she has to work the whole body as well as the mind and soul. All of these aspects can greatly help with the sport. “Movements become quicker and smoother, and decisions can be taken with different awareness,” she states.
When asked what she believes the pandemic taught her both on and off the field, Conny says that there is always a way. “If it’s not right, it’s left. We have to be thankful about what we have and the environment in which we move. It gives you priceless freedom and so many opportunities even in the most unusual moments,” the polo lady comments. We couldn’t agree more!
Finally, Conny leaves one more reminder that we must have forgotten while stuck in a pandemic. If you need to hear it today for tomorrow, always remember to, “Keep calm and polo on!” she enthusiastically exclaims.