Updated on 18 November 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes
Today I’m visiting one of the world’s most famous polo fields in Deauville to play an equestrian sport that has always fascinated me. With a long and illustrious history, Deauville’s Polo Club hosts an international tournament every summer where the world’s greatest players all compete. Evrard de Spa, founder of the polo school, is coaching my introductory lesson and teaches me the basics of the game and tactics of the sport.
the oldest recorded team sport in known history
Here on the La Touques racecourse, strolling on the carefully tended grass lawn of the Deauville Polo Club. A typical polo field is almost 10 acres in size (about five football pitches), the largest sports field in organised sport. I am introduced to my talented instructor Evrard, accompanied by Luna, a “made in Argentina” polo pony perfectly suited to my beginner level. Known as “the sport of kings”, this team sport played on horseback was invented 2,500 years ago on the steppes of the Persian Empire and is possibly the oldest recorded team sport in the world!
PERFECTING MY swing
The first step in learning to play polo is to master the polo stick, a long-handled wooden mallet used to hit a small hard ball. Just like you swing a club in golf, playing polo is all about the posture and the gesture! The mastery of the art of holding and swinging the mallet forehand and backhand is the road to success. We start with foot-mallet training with a mallet designed to help me practice my swing without requiring the use of a horse. I hold my stick firmly, and hit. After a few failed attempts followed by several good hits, it’s time to put these skills in action on a moving horse.
Gesture, direction and precision
I saddle up. Polo requires a whole new skill set compared to regular horse riding, holding the reins in the left hand and the mallet in the right hand. I need to gain some “stick and ball” experience and work on my gesture, my direction and precision. What a challenge!
The good news is that polo ponies are generally very well trained and automatically follow the ball to some extent. “Keep the mallet on your shoulder and stretch it out towards the ground,” advises Evrard. As I walk, trot and gallop, I try to gauge the distance between the end of the mallet and the ground to hit the ball at the right time, in the right place.
Swinging my mallet while riding is not easy, but my efforts pay off in the end with a few excellent hits and a perfect forehand. As this first lesson comes to an end, I start to feel the pain set in my arm from the weight of the mallet so Evrard suggests we call it a day. Now I just can’t wait to try a real game with other players!
This seaside resort is arguably the French home of horses and polo and, founded in 1907, the Deauville Polo Club is an equestrian institution. Every August, the Barrière Polo Cup gathers professionals from the world of polo for several tournaments. The Gold Cup is one of these legendary tournaments and features some of the best polo players in the world.
Polo School – Deauville International Polo Club
Hippodrome Deauville – La Touques and Pôle International du Cheval Longines
Information and bookings:
Evrard de Spa : +33 (0)6 07 99 56 92 | email@example.com
Group or private lessons (bookings only)
Duration: 1 hour.
Helmets and mallets are provided on-site.
Good level of horse riding required
€80 at the Longines Deauville International Horse Centre (all year round)
€100 at the Deauville International Polo Club (on lawn May to September)
Useful information subject to change