Diaries of a Polo Bum: It Ain’t About The Trophies

Amanda reflects on the cost and gain of playing polo.

After a very wet few months and, consequently, a lot of arena polo, we closed our spring 2016 season with two glorious weekends on the field. It felt so incredibly good to be outside again, though the sheer size of the fields when compared to the arena was disorientating at first. It felt good to tailgate afterwards, pulling beers from shared coolers, rather than lugging our gear back to our own vehicles as quickly as possible — shoulders hunched from the ever present precipitation, boots trudging through the mud underfoot. The conversations after we ride are, arguably, just as, if not more, important than the riding itself. That’s where the plays that last mere seconds on the field are nurtured into full grown moments.

When you can’t concentrate on the line, because you start having too much fun.

When you get the nearside forehand, score a goal and have absolutely no idea how the stars and your swing aligned so beautifully.

When you survive a particularly brutal ride off and feel like a cast member on the set of an epic action/adventure film.

When you hear that beautiful “Pop!” sound and know you’ve hit the ball’s elusive sweet spot.

Aboard the ever lovely Seana. #horsenation #horsesofinstagram #polopony #highgoal @houstonpoloclub

A photo posted by Amanda Uechi Ronan (@horsenista) on

Of course, the conversations on the last day include the ever present question of, “Are you playing in the summer? Are you playing in the fall?” Everyone tends to say yes, usually after a long sigh and a worried smile. There’s always talk of more green fees, membership dues and horse leases. We never know how we’re going to pay for everything next season. We just know we’re going to pay for everything next season.

Horses are expensive. Polo is expensive. I know I sacrifice so that horses and polo can be a part of my life and I do it willingly.

Do I go on fancy vacations? No. Do I live in a McMansion in “the neighborhood.” Nope again. Do I eat at 5-star restaurants? Nada, folks. Olive Garden is about as lush as my eating habits have ever achieved and even then I complain about the prices. $17.49 for the Tour of Italy, OG? You better be prepared to bring at least two bowls of salad and lots of breadsticks, because I need hefty leftovers to substantiate that price. My horses get new shoes before I do. They go to the vet for every scratch and bump, while I maintain ibuprofen and generic allergy pills can fix any human ailment.

The reason I make all these sacrifices is because I fell in love with horses when I was eight years old. I remember cantering for the first time — my hands shaking, my knuckles white from clenching the saddle horn — and thinking, “This is what I’m supposed to do. Here’s where I’m supposed to be.”

The events that led me to polo could be deemed kismet for sure. Seeing a flapping white banner advertising the Houston Polo Club while driving down the highway, responding to an everyday email from my editor about an opportunity to cover polo a few months later, realizing that my background in both western and english disciplines made me ideally suited to play the game … all seemed like happy coincidences. But were they?

I’m not a philosopher, but in the words of Forrest Gump, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

When you have the good fortune of finding something that you’re passionate about, something that makes you a better person just by doing it, something that creates lifelong friendships and memories you’ll treasure when you’re old and grey and lying on your death bed … it’s simply worth every penny.

So, will I be playing next season? The answer is definitely yes.

Go Riding.

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