‘I’m Flying for a Living and Traveling for Polo’. A tale of a passionate polo novice’s journey from the sidelines to the playing fields -by Diana de Souza Leão Jensen

www.polopeopleplaces.com

“A polo handicap is a passport to the world:” -Winston Churchill

I have already globetrotted as a stewardess and I want to do it all again on horseback. It only takes a second to get hooked on polo; that second for me was at the Palermo Open in 2010 and polo has been on my mind ever since. My ‘Flying for a living, travelling for Polo’ lifestyle has taken me to many places. I have watched all levels of polo in several countries and continents, but this year in March, I decided it was time for me to get on a horse and learn the sport I love, with such passion. I want to share my journey and hopefully inspire other girls to get up from the sidelines and take up this amazing sport.

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Growing up, I was never attracted to horses, I just thought they were beautiful from afar and honestly I was a little scared of them. When I fell in love with polo, it wasn’t just the fabulous atmosphere of polo events, which I became infatuated with, I also felt a new appreciation for these most noble  animals and slowly I began to be more and more interested in them as my love for the sport grew. I finally decided to give it a try and get on a horse. Living in Bahrain makes it challenging for me to learn polo, as there are no polo schools on the island, so I found a show jumping school and booked a riding lesson.

One of my main challenges is the fact that I am a bit of a perfectionist and if I don’t excel from the beginning I feel disappointed in myself. I know it’s silly, I mean only Argentinians are great at polo from birth, right? On the other hand  I am also extremely determined, so when I make up my mind that I will do something, I will do it. I had made up my mind about learning to play polo, so I will (eventually) play polo!

I spent hours on the Internet researching everything about learning to ride and learning to play polo, but as much as I love learning things from the many teachers on ‘YouTube’, some things you need to practice in real life.

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Taking the plunge in to polo

So I showed up to my first riding lesson at the show jumping school full of excitement and eagerness to learn. I explained to the teacher that; “my goal is to play polo” he gave me a weird look, laughed and  said  Are you serious?” I guess I didn’t quite look the part. I got on the horse, a jumpy  (pun intended) little mare by the name of Tess. I felt like millions of butterflies had taken residence in my belly. I laughed at myself thinking that I must have looked like a sack of potatoes, as I did not have a clue what I was doing. I started going through all the things I had learned online “hug the horse with your legs” “shoulders back, heels down, relax your arms” there really are a lot of things to remember in riding, but the biggest lesson I have learned so far is “Don’t think, just do!”

Whenever I start thinking about what I have to do I mess it up, but when my instincts take over everything works just fine. When it does it’s the most amazing feeling. So that was my first lesson.   My advice to anyone else thinking about starting to learn polo: don’t think about it, just do it, Nike got that one right.

After a few weeks of basic riding lessons I felt ready and eager to get a mallet and hit a ball. In April I had already planned a trip to Florida for the US Open Final, so I immediately booked some lessons at the Grand Champions Polo Club with Juan Bollini.

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The essence of polo

Nothing is quite like the feeling of cantering down a polo field with the soft breeze on your face, the pounding of your heart in your chest, the heavy breathing of the horse and everything just comes together in a perfect symphony; time slows down, your senses are sharpened, the adrenaline is pumping, you see the ball, aim towards it, set your mallet up high, chest forward, legs tight, connect with the horse, swing the mallet in pendulum and “clack” the wonderful sound of hitting the ball right in the sweet spot. That is the joy of playing polo.

Learning to play polo is turning out to be one of my greatest adventures but there is still a long way to go. I will be sharing the details of my journey, along with tips I have gathered along the way about learning to play polo, in the next chapters of this series. Meanwhile, more stories about my travels around the world for polo can be found on 

Polo is not just a sport it’s a lifestyle

Often when something becomes a passion it takes over every aspect of your life. This is why we say that polo is a lifestyle and not just a sport. It is pretty clear how polo has impacted my world and that 99% of what goes through my mind is somehow related to polo. Somehow I always manage to get myself involved, no matter where I am. So naturally my trip to London in June had a fully packed schedule of very diversified  polo  experiences showing me all sides of the game. 

Now that I have a new flying job in Europe and will soon be in London, I look forward to lots of polo everything! Playing, watching, organizing, writing and reading about polo and anything else that has any connection to my passion. Cheers to an awesome year ahead, chukker on!

Photo credit: http://thepolopaparazzi.com/

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