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.
To discover more on this one-of-a-kind destination, contact our travel consultants on 0203 651 1965 or click here.