Yesterday’s high of 20 degrees and solid hours of desk-sitting had me wistful for warmer times and a fun riding memory from the fall, when a vest and a lightweight pair of riding gloves kept me acceptably warm.

Our editorial team was to be assembled in Lexington for a conference back in October (our digital editor telecommutes), so I organized a lesson for us at a local polo club. I thought it would fun for us to try something we’d never tried before on horseback, and I hoped it could prove a fun team exercise.

The Horse editorial team tries their collective hand at polo.

Photo: Adam Spradling

Ed Armstrong, who with his wife runs the outfit, seemed intrigued by this lesson’s use as a team activity. He instructed on the phone, simply, “Bring a helmet and gloves.”

We complied, arriving with appropriate gear, eager grins, and a great photographer. After a few minutes of introduction to the sport, two eventers, a dressage rider, and a show jumper climbed aboard four “old pros” who ushered us into the unfamiliar world of mallets, ride-offs, hooking, and goals.

Ed taught us technique and a little about the rules of the sport, and we practiced what he taught us in the arena. Erica, our news editor, did a great job describing a few of our activities in a blog post last fall.

Our horses were fantastic tutors: The mare I rode, Polka, who was blind in one eye, shifted her weight strategically when I leaned a little too far to swing at the ball. She also leaned out of the way when I was a little ambitious with my swing. Granted, that was self-preservation to an extent, but I was delighted to be riding a horse that knew her job so very well … and this was all with one eye! We kept at our drills and “chukkers” for a total of about two hours. Since my usual activity is hacks in the woods with Gandalf, and it had been a few months since my Ireland riding adventures, I was tuckered out when the session was complete.

One of our polo schoolmasters.

Photo: Adam Spradling/TheHorse.com

Some things I noticed or learned with this activity:

  • Using a mallet for the first time can leave one heck of an egg/bruise on the forearm. But said injury is a great conversation starter.
  • All bets are off when it comes to equitation during a first polo lesson.
  • Each of the four horses offered a different strength to the activity. Mine was steady and delightfully careful with her feet (sometimes she kicked the ball for me, in fact, as if to calmly say, “Get it down the field already, woman.”), though a little stubborn at times (probably was preserving energy!). Another was lithe, quick, and maneuverable. You get the picture.
  • Polka and me, as I learned how to swing a mallet.

    Photo: Adam Spradling/TheHorse.com

  • Similarly, our team members’ personalities came out in their riding and playing. Alex, the show jumper, was exact and efficient, completing the exercises in style (I wondered if she had taken a crash course in polo on one of her Wellington horse show trips!). Erica, an eventer, was a quick study with a ready smile on her face, clearly enjoying the new challenge and collecting information for blog reflection. Michelle, the dressage rider, drew a much zippier mount than she’s used to, and she kept on riding with determination and worked carefully with her partners at the drills, all while exhibiting a sense of humor about the mare’s pinned ears and perpetual motion. Each of my team members brings a personality and skills to the table that, when combined, produce great material that you see in the magazine each month and on TheHorse.com. If we all were exactly the same, how boring would that be?
  • Sometimes changing it up is just what you need. Each of us has our usual riding activities, and seeing the world from a different type of saddle provides, literally and figuratively, a new perspective. Just as doctors purport that completing a crossword puzzle daily will keep the mind sharp, I think trying new activities does the same for our skills (whether they be skills for horsemanship, writing, editing, or for navigating life).
  • Finally, polo is wildly fun, and I’d like to take a few more lessons to see if it’s something I might want to try a little more of.

All that said … maybe I’ll wait till it’s a wee bit warmer.

When was the last time you changed up your routine and tried another type of riding or activity? What new perspectives did it allow?

The Horse Editorial Team poses between chukkers.

Photo: Adam Spradling/TheHorse.com