The Next Generation of Polo Ponies
Purchasing the perfect polo pony has never been more varied. Ponies are available from all over the world and with an abundance of choice, the pitfalls could be monstrous. Polo Valley, a Sotogrande based operation, combines a world-class polo destination, tuition and pony purchasing all under one roof. Polo Times spoke to them about how they believe purchasers can get the most out of their trial, ensuring they go home with their perfect fit.
We have all experienced that feeling of being under mounted or out of control in a chukka, not having the legs to match the pace, constantly holding back a fresh or strong horse, being out of the game or out manoeuvred and how it puts a huge limit on your game. A good horse gets you to the ball before the rest, it turns on a sixpence and knows where to be in relation to the ball to give you the best chance at nailing the shot – it’s incredible the difference being well mounted makes – and so, naturally providing guests with amazing, game changing horses that they are safe and comfortable on is very important to us at Polo Valley.
"The time and effort put into finding these horses takes days at a time. Road tripping around countries, trying out horses at carefully organised stops along the way to scout out great movers and minds" - Christian Byrne
“My son and I found the Polo Valley website very useful in terms of the detail, like playing polo over a long weekend and being able to spend time trying polo ponies – this was very important for us. Quality images and information about the ponies for sale and the fact that prices are listed on the webpage provided great transparency. The owner Christian and all the staff at Polo Valley were extremely helpful. It was a great experience, we enjoyed the weekend and ended up buying three ponies: Toro, Turka and Connie. I would highly recommend Polo Valley to all polo pony buyers and I couldn’t be happier with our choice. They are very honest people to buy from. I believe Polo Valley will grow in popularity hugely as one of the best polo clubs in Sotogrande Spain.” – Sima Lanhill & Anders Thulin.
You can never tell what a horse is going to be like from a photograph. You can see their conformation but until you ride them you have no idea how they move or how receptive they are to the rider. The horse has to be balanced and move well, hopefully they have a comfy canter stride and look pretty, but the most important thing is their mind.
Their education at Polo Valley is thorough and some always need more time and patience than others, but the wilful and resistant ones often turn out to give you the most back. “When a horse is doing everything perfectly, that’s the moment to put them in the field and let them rest.” It’s extremely time, money and labour intensive, but great polo ponies are well worth the investment. Buying a horse can be a phenomenally difficult decision, requiring a lot of consideration and should never be rushed. One thing we always highly recommend is trying the horse(s) over a few days and seeing them in different situations and not basing any decisions on a 20-minute stick & ball session.
When buyers come to stay, they try the horse during chukkas, see what they are like in the box, how they load etc, all while enjoying a sunny vacation in a relaxing getaway and feeling certain they are making the right decision.
We have had great success from our first wave of horses to come through the programme who have sold in the UK, America, Germany and Sweden. With extremely encouraging feedback from delighted buyers, it’s great to see our ponies go onto the next stage of their careers and to see how happy clients are with them.
To organise a trip or find out more about our horses for sale please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.polovalley.co.uk for more details.
Season Opening 2018
The best is yet to come...
On 6th February 2018
The 1st of February marked the beginning of 9 months of sunshine, stick & balling, chukkas, reunions, new friendships, tapas, paella, candle lit asados and all things polo in Sotogrande! 2017 was a fantastic year for us, with more movement than ever and plenty new faces and friends made. Now in 2018 we can’t wait to share our guest house, pitch and ponies with you all again.
And so as we begin our 3rd full season of sharing our exhilarating sport with people from around the world. We appreciate our position to share, promote and live our passion every week more than ever. Seeing so many different people going through the motions you can strongly relate to never gets old or tiring.
As we look forward into 2018 it feels more prevalent than ever how powerful polo is at bringing people together from often profoundly different backgrounds and onto forming friendships and bonds catalysed by their shared passion for this unique sport. This being said, we’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who shared our 2017 season with us.
Corporate & Team Building Events
In 2017 we hosted corporate events for the very first time at Polo Valley to great success. The first group we had the pleasure of greeting were 8 energetic French businessmen and women on a company retreat who spent an afternoon of their company retreat with us. We took them through the basics; hitting the ball for the first time, horse control, and prepared them for their their first mini chukka’s. After the exhilarating first experience they laughed and joked over G&T’s and vino as the sun began to set over the polo pitch. Now the scene was set for their transition to a candle lit, sit down asado, and the lively, excited chatter from the polo pitch was replaced by more serious tones as they moved back to business.
We were fortunate enough to enjoy hosting our second corporate group for several days, and introduced them to the game in between other activities they had planned. The YPO group from London also enjoyed an exhibition match assembled on the Santa Maria pitches, with local pro’s such as Diogo Gallego, Hernan Pieres, Rocho Torriguitar, Tom Meyrick and our own Chris Byrne. The trip leader plays regularly in the UK and played on the side of David Ashby, Tom Meyrick and Diogo Gallager.
The CEO’s and executives found polo as contagious as anyone playing for the first time, we were thrilled to share the enthusiasm of their first polo experience and hope it will lead to many more.
We can’t wait to share our new and improved asado experience with you in 2018. Casual asado’s as pictured on the right will always have a place in our barn, but we couldn’t resist revamping our whole set up to create an experience like you’ve never seen before. Have our stables to yourselves in a private dining experience like no other shared with your group and our ponies only metres away.
Dine on the finest selection of meats, and wash them down with delightful cocktails and cava while being serenaded by a live Spanish band and watching flamenco dancers - or why not try yourself?
Ask us about dining at “The Stables” for a unique experience like no other.
47th Torneo de International de Polo
August’s International Tournament is always worth talking about. Buzzing crowds assemble in anticipation to watch the likes of Facundo Pieres, Juan Martin Nero, David Stirling on world class polo fields - with high, medium and low goal tournaments running parallel to each other there was no shortage of chukkas to watch.
Choosing to play polo here in August is an absolute treat, being able to fully immerse yourself in the high goal, taking in the inspiring world class skill on display at Santa Maria and then applying that energy to your practice while you’re still exhilarated is a great way to play.
The bubbly atmosphere is exhilarating, play is captivating, the hustle and bustle of Soto is energizing, it’s the absolute peak time to see polo being played in Spain with the bustling crowds enjoying sangria or G&T’s. Whether you have your own hospitality terrace booked, prefer the VIP area or simply turn up to watch for free (€10 donated to charity on finals days) seeing Sotogrande in its element is unforgettable.
From School to Press Open Days, we are hosting a few! It’s so refreshing for the team to welcome totally fresh eyes from local communities in to see the ponies and property for the first time - we love meeting you guys! We are planning plenty more in 2018 with our first on the 3rd February. Make sure you are signed up to our 2018 mailing list so you don’t miss any updates.
Young Horse Programme
In September we introduced Alegria, Rozie, Shakira, Gatsby, Indio and Estrella amoung a few others from England and Argentina to the team. Mostly 3 year olds who are being worked by Santi and Ivan, familiarising them with stick balling and being on the field before progressing into baby chukkas. This new intake comes as the class of 2016; Guapa, Zeta, Rita, Mika, Maradonna to name a few are progressing nicely and almost all playing chukkas. On top of this we also had three promising 3 year olds arrive this month from England to work with, it’s wonderful to see the new barn brimming full of horses.
For more photos and details of our horses for sale click here.
We are very excited to continue our school program after running an Autumn session and then developing over the winter. With our program of achievement badges, riding sessions and polo mallet technique we are ready to provide a polo education for the students in Sotogrande and hope that as many of them can take advantage of living in such a polo rich area. We’re feeling very positive about 2018 being a great year for developing polo at a grassroots level within Sotogrande for the next generation of players.
On the 20th January we collected 10 week old Bella, a pure-bred Rhodesian Ridgeback bred only 45 minutes away from Polo Valley in Jerez. She already has us all wrapped around her little finger and is a very welcome distraction in the office! Kenya is looking out for her like a big sister already and we’re all enjoying watching her personality unfold and develop.
Keep an eye out for updates on our progress and new installments for 2018. In the last months of 2017 we “unveiled” the clubhouse area of the property and now we’re very excited to be designing it into a place in which we can eat, entertain, watch live tournaments and make memories in.
Thanks for reading and from everyone on the PV team take care for now and we all look forward to seeing many of you this season!
Guest review: My Weekend at Polo Valley
I can certainly say I have the polo bug now... It’s a fantastic sport that combines fitness, horsemanship, skill, discipline with a certain lifestyle, lots of fun and a few too many gin and tonics... The only trouble with polo is its accessibility, until I heard about Polo Valley.
I have enjoyed playing polo in the UK for some time now, which is fun, apart from the unpredictable weather that makes the season very short and a little unglamourous. So my cousin and I decided to test out Polo Valley in Sotogrande for a short weekend in May, where a friend of mine had been a few weeks before and highly recommended it to us. We were concerned that Polo Valley was either for beginners or top professionals and couldn’t really accommodate the in-betweens, but we enquired anyway and soon Harry and I were on a quick Friday afternoon flight to Gibraltar and picked up by Chris in a Polo Valley truck, just meters from the Spanish border.
We headed straight for dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Sotogrande, where we met two more guests who were staying at the nearby Hotel Almenara, the Resort Manager, Judy and the Resort Assistant, Kat. The seafood tapas was exquisite, the conversation was hilarious and after a few beers I was completely relaxed and in holiday weekend mode.
We had a gentle start to Saturday morning, pulling back the curtain to a blue, sunny sky with a perfect view of the polo pitch, stables and ponies just beyond the private pool of the Polo Valley guesthouse. Breakfast was very easy, all laid out on the kitchen bar so you could help yourself and sit outside in the sun to enjoy.
Stick and ball for me and Harry began at 11am, after the other two clients, who started at 10am. So after a quick change we headed down to the stables to meet Tom the Polo Manager (The Polo Guru). Our practice was amazing, the ponies (I rode Bob and Harry funnily enough rode Harry!), were in top shape, very well trained and easy to ride. After 10 minutes or so on our own with Tom walking in the middle of the field, he called us in for a talk. He broke down every element from how we rode, our swings and even the positioning of hands - and it all made complete sense! From then on we practiced everything he was coaching us, all the bad habits started fading and there was a significant improvement in no time.
After polo it was lunch: a really tasty array of salads, hams, cheeses, some sort of moussaka and a salmon soup filled the table, and all six of us sat down to eat and reminisce on the morning’s stick and ball session. After a few hours by the pool, I got changed again and went back to the stables to watch a soft chukka (practice game) between the other two beginner guests playing with Tom, Chris, Kat and one of the Horse Managers, Sante. Even though the Polo Valley staff were astonishingly brilliant at polo, it was still very clear that both of the other clients, who were on opposing teams, thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Then Harry and I went on for another stick and ball session with Tom giving more pointers and really beginning to push us with more types of shots and positions to improve our polo.
After this very sweaty session, we got off our ponies and joined the other guests, Kat and Judy, who had fresh cut oranges from the next-door fields, a bucket of ice, beers, gin and tonic! After some refreshing drinks in the late afternoon sun, we all got showered and changed to regroup for pre-dinner cocktails followed by a traditional Argentine ‘asado’. I would never have imagined sitting in a stable on a big square table with eight other people and truly enjoying it… but I really did. There was the most incredible meat, squid, salad, cheese, ham, quality red wine, local beer and then out came the chocolate cake! A perfect ending to a great first day.
We started the Sunday morning similar to the previous day, with a relaxing breakfast, stick and ball session, great lunch and rest by the pool. In the afternoon we all agreed to skip chukkas and go for a hack instead, a gentle hike on horseback. We all met up and mounted our horses, I was on Valium this time, Harry was on Rockie. We rode down the path away from Polo Valley and after 20 minutes of riding and laughing (a lot) we came to a creek where Sante led us into a river. We all followed, our feet skimming the water as we rode, watching Sante in the deeper water and admiring his horsemanship. When we got back, there was another fantastic dinner spread waiting, which we hurried to eat before saying our quick goodbyes and off for an early evening flight back home.
It was a brilliant escape for the weekend. Polo Valley stands out and I can completely see why. The level of service is second to none, the food is seriously good, the facilities are lovely and you actually get better at playing polo. I will certainly be going back for another weekend, most probably with my two kids who now have the Polo Valley caps and training mallets, which I just had to get from the shop. I couldn’t recommend Polo Valley more, a very big thank you to the entire team for making our weekend so fun and easy.
My Debut To Polo
Polo appealed to me because I'm an active 52-year-old dad that believes there is still life in the old dog yet. I have been riding for 10 years: my previous mid-life crisis - instead of Golf or a Harley, or indeed having an affair, I opt for learning to ride a horse and have never looked back.
Although it definitely helps to be able to ride a horse (from a confidence and balance point of view), Polo Valley can train you to play polo within a few weeks from standing start. That’s because the polo ponies are so well trained and know their job inside out, allowing the training to focus on you and you alone.
The itinerary tends to be wake up and stretch by the pool to ensure you are fully flexed before your morning polo training session. Mount your horse and warm up. Then partake in 50 minutes intensive polo training with your mallet, polo pony, some colleagues and the trainer – who soon become your polo-playing friends.
The rest of the morning is usually spent recovering from the training 😉 either by the pool, on the beach or at the beach club and, if you have your family in tow, enjoying all that Sotogrande has to offer with them until your early evening polo session. The cool of the evening brings the chance to play chukkas – the polo term for a game. This involves being divided in to two teams (of maximum 4 a side) and literally playing a game: trying to hit the ball with your polo mallet into the opposing team's goal. You learn the rules, how to play safe and what is considered foul play.
After about an hour on the playing field, including a 5 minute half time break, you'll hear the final whistle which signals time for a well deserved G&T. Then it's shower time before dinner, which is either an Argentinian BBQ onsite at Polo Valley resort or some nice Spanish cuisine at a local restaurant. If you still have energy there are countless bars and clubs to frequent – but remember you'll need to be up tomorrow before the sun rises to stretch and get ready to mount a new polo pony (they change your pony daily to maximise your experience). Onsite massages and yoga are available to book throughout your stay as needed.
I stayed a week on my own to decide if I liked it – of course, I loved it. I am returning with my family next week to continue the Polo Valley journey…
Tips from the Polo Valley Pro
At Polo Valley Sotogrande, all you need is the desire and willpower to learn to play polo. We take care of the rest. Well trained horses, different fields for classes and practice, all the equipment from helmets, boots and mallets ready to be used by our guests. We take care of everything, so you just need to show up and be prepared to have t lot of fun learning the 'King of Sports'."
If you want to be the star pupil and be ready to take up the mallet when you arrive for your beginner lesson, here are some tips from the pro.
Holding a mallet
When we watch the great polo players it looks so natural and easy and that is how it is supposed to feel when you get the technique right.
First things first, holding a mallet properly is important to how your swing will be.
Most people when they see a mallet for the first time think that the hand goes through the sling, this would make it slightly dangerous if your mallet gets caught on something during a game. The proper way of holding a mallet is to put your thumb through the sling and wrap it around the back of your hand and then hold it. This way, if you lose your grip, you won’t lose the mallet as well, but if the mallet head gets caught in someone else’s tack you have a “quick release” from it.
You don’t want to grip it too hard by squeezing it, or too loose that it can slip out of your hand. Essentially you will hold it with only 3 fingers, your thumb, middle and ring finger. Your index finger should be holding the bottom edge of the grip.
You will hit the ball with the long side of the mallet head, which is closest to you, the black part of Alvaro’s mallet.
What to Expect at Polo Valley, Sotogrande
“Each day brought something different, lots of laughing, a real sense of achievement from all of the family with lasting memories would sum up a remarkable week. All of the team at Polo Valley were extremely welcoming and incredibly attentive throughout our stay. Polo at Polo Valley, I have to say, met and indeed exceeded our expectations.”
A few words from Diana Jensen of PeoplePoloPlaces
Known as the polo capital of Europe, Sotogrande is an ideal location to learn to play polo or brush up on the skills you already might have! The ranch is home to a team of ponies that have been carefully selected and trained to suit riders of all ability so no need to worry; there will be something for every level. The team of professionals working at the ranch will be there to support your every need; with a resort manager and complete team they can make all the holiday arrangements for you so sit back in the saddle and relax.
At Polo Valley the ball is in your court, you can do as much or as little polo as you like. From polo weekends, weekly holidays to individual polo lessons and corporate trips. From stick and ball polo lessons to practise matches, those who love horses can also enjoy a gallop down the sandy beaches or a hack in the mountains. Simply speak to the Powder Byrne travel consultants with your ideal request and they'll be happy to accommodate.