It’s Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kick off to summer. One of my favorite things to do this season is watch a polo match outside in the sunshine. I'm so lucky to live close by to Newport Polo, which has exciting weekend matches from June to September. An afternoon at polo draws a fun, lively crowd of all ages with food trucks and special vendors. I love dressing up in a summery dress, packing some food for a picnic and opening up a good bottle of rosé on the lawn overlooking the playing fields with friends and family. It's always such a memorable day.
Polo is known as the "gentleman's sport" and one of the oldest team sports. The game originated in Persia between 600 B.C and 100 A.D. and in 1876, polo was introduced to New York, Westchester County and then Newport, Rhode Island. From there, it quickly spread across the country. The game of polo is played at high speed on a grassy field the size of a football field. Players and horses need to be in great athletic shape and use a long-handed mallet to hit a small ball into the opposing team's goal.
Since my husband and business partner, Andrej, has a deep passion for the game of polo and played the sport on the Verona Polo Team in Italy, I decided to interview him on the subject- it's usually me answering the questions so this was fun to change the focus this week...
1. Why do you love the game of polo?
I generally love to embrace challenges and polo provides the perfect combination of complexity, skill, and fun. Polo demands perfect coordination, to ride safely and more importantly, to steer a 1,000 pound companion to where he has to go, at what speed, when to stop and turn and go again, all while hitting a ball and working with your teammates to hopefully win the match.
2. Was it hard to learn to play? And when and how did you learn the game?
In order to start playing polo, you first need to become a great horseback rider. It then takes a couple of years to achieve riding a polo horse properly, while the hitting the ball. Once you achieve these skills, you can start focusing on the strategy to play with other players - and win the game!
I started with horseback riding about 8 years ago when my son, Luka was around 3 years old. I took him to his first lesson and I immediately was in awe of the horses because of their beauty, strength and calm nature. When I accompanied Luka the second time to his lesson, I just couldn't resist the urge to try riding myself. I immediately felt a primal connection to the horse and I knew riding would become a lifelong passion.
Before I started riding, I was playing golf regularly so I was missing it. As weird as it sounds, I realized that in a way I could combine the riding and golf so I thought of polo! Since polo is still not developed in Slovenia (where I come from) I drove on weekends to Italy join the Verona Polo team. The 250 mile drive was worth every second of being immersed in the Northern Italian lifestyle, being taught by an incredible polo instructor, and it didn't hurt that the polo club is on the grounds of an old mansion surrounded by amazing cypress trees and pristine nature (see photos below).
3. Polo attracts all kind of people and ages. Why do you feel it's so appealing?
I believe that the appeal of polo is that it is the queen of sports, it's classically a royal game so not only is it exciting to see the horses but it's also very dignified. I love how people tend to dress up for polo matches. You can see a lot of ladies in dresses and hats and men in linen shirts and loafers- it's sort of a classic look, which is definitely my style.
We love Newport Polo so much that we even have a tent on occasion there- selling HAVERHILL jewelry. Our first Saturday of the season will be on June 15th.