Article by Brenda de Boer

Brenda MYRJAM de Boer is the driving force behind the website www.polo-umpire.com She has been playing for 20 years, is a teacher in polo and runs Polo Club Midden-Nederland in the Netherlands.

Ladies Polo in Africa

So many places to go for polo and in some way you end up in place that makes you feel like polo is really what you live for. Jurassic Park is one of those places. One day you have to see Palermo, Palm Beach, Dubai and the Queens Cup. But playing chukka’s as part of a local polo community in an environment far away from your own is a special sensation of enjoying polo.

Jurassic Park sucks you into the family right from the pick-up at the airport. Grandma Merle waits for us and proves why she is the mother of a polo player by driving the mini-van professionally and fast through the beautiful hills of Eastern South Africa. It is not only 5-goaler Selby Williamson as a coach, but the Williamsons have 3 generations ready to make the stay at Jurrasic Park a warm one.

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Selby’s mom and dad drive the vehicles, assist with lunch and tell stories at the fire-place with drinks. Selby’s partner  Jacky is an expert on horses, riding and a strong player. The kids vary in ages in handicaps and join the guests on weekends and holidays. And for doglovers there are 10 more family-members.

 When we join the group to go with some Dutch, German and English polofriends there so many questions. Is it safe to go, do I need my sticks, do we do anything else than polo, can I join as a beginner, are stay and food included, are there any zebra’s ? The answer to all of that was yes, so there we went. All of us arriving from seperate international destinations joing at the local airport of Pietermaritzburg. A little surprised by the feeling of an English atmosphere in a sunny climate and African culture.

We doze off despite the amazing view of hills and lakes, with little African round huts with thatch roofs. All of a sudden we turn left and arrive at the main house. A herd of dogs greets us like they have known us for ever and we are all divided between romantic little cottages in the garden. Before we have time to think we are on our way to the clubhouse and on the polo field playing chukka’s.

The horses in South Africa are based very much on the thoroughbreds of the racetrack which makes them elegant and fast. At Jurassic Park, there are around 150 horses and we visit the breeding mares in the hills around the field.

The paddocks are of the size of a nature reserve and hold two groups of zebra’s who live happily along the polo horses. For us, this is like a mini-safari on the way to the top of the mountain where we have sundowners looking down from high-up to the club and enjoying the sunset.

We play chukka’s at the home field surrounded by the hills and zebra’s watching us by sunset. After a rainy day, we move to the neighboring club at Swartberg where the local members of the club join us.

All questions that arise about rules are addressed over drinks at the pool bar at night. Selby is a great believer in creating a solid technical basis on the wooden horse, and we start every day with the 4 basic shots and little secrets that make us hit further and more accurate.

As this kind of weeks does, time flies and before we know we have to leave our polo paradise and travel back with great memories, some new friends and eager to start our polo season at home. My advice, keep a good percentage of your polo budget for traveling. Polo in your home country is a great way to relax after the office, to make friends and enjoy the benefit of spending time with horses. Traveling for polo is making it all complete!

 

Photos:

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Brenda de Boer