Where I learn to play polo. Yah.
Wax jacket titans Barbour invited me for day to learn how to play that favourite game of princes, Polo. I am not a stranger to the Polo field – for years now I have been the first to leap onto the grass, champagne in hand, to stomp down the divots in time-honoured tradition – but that of spectators, rather than players.
If you had told me whilst watching the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup, downing gallons of golden fizz, that I would have gone near a Polo pony, let alone mount it, I would have suggested you had had a little too much sun. Nevertheless, people change – the chance to leap into the saddle was a temptation not to be passed over.
Picked up by a capacious Range Rover, myself, Sasha Wilkins (aka Liberty London Girl), and her (fellow blondie) agent Richard were whipped up to the Guards Polo Club in Windsor in style to be put through Polo school. Huge swoon when we arrived and discovered that our instructors were members of the Household Cavalry team – all officers and gentlemen wearing the polo uniform of white jeans and Argentinean woven belts.
After a quick coffee, we were on. They broke us in slowly – after being allocated my steed, and some basic riding recaps, we were given a crash course in how to attempt to hit a ball whilst charging on a living, breathing thing. Crash was about right as I was constantly halting my pony for fear of careering off into other ponies, or hitting its poor little ankles with the stick, a vicious looking enlarged version of a croquet mallet. When the instructor told us that Polo could be equated to attempting to play golf in a heavy earthquake, I wasn’t sure I should dismount and run for the hills, or at least Windsor Castle. In fact, it turns out I’m not bad.
We played a game with teams of four, and I don’t know if it was the caffeine kicking in or the red of the Barbour polo shirts, but I came over all competitive. Anger got behind my eyes, and I just went for it – highly unusual for a boy who spent the entirety of school avoiding team sports. We stormed to victory! I really took to it – polo ponies are so much better than the nags I was put on aged 9 at riding school, they are so responsive. You’re less holding reins, and more a gear stick. Combine that with the fact that polo is extraordinarily good for your core, and I was sold.
If I am to take it up, there is the small issue of cost. In a match, a single player goes through reams of ponies, thus making it a little more expensive a hobby than macramé, but dash it – I love it!
We repaired to the clubhouse for a delicious lunch, prize giving (something waxy – yay), and a chance to check out Amanda Harlech’s first collaboration with Barbour. I have long been a fan of Barbour, worn them since childhood, and will always champion it as one of our best British clothing manufacturers. They know their core brand so well, and are the best at what they produce in the world. Plus I’m biased, being originally from the North East, and they are based in Northumberland, where wearing waterproof waxed jackets is practically enshrined in law. The new collection has some lovely pieces, including a leather number that looks almost like something from the White Queen. Makes me want to learn to ride sidesaddle.
Post-lunch we were driven back to the polo field and watched the Household Cavalry take on Bucks. I thought I had been charging up and down, but soon saw quite how tame I had been. Now that I have had a taste, I am hungry for more – watch out William and Harry, you might find me as an opponent yet…