Try something new in 2019 — polocrosse

A combination of polo and lacrosse, polocrosse is an exciting, fast-paced game where riders try to throw a ball through goal posts to score. The special polocrosse racquet has a loose net on the end designed for picking up, catching and carrying the ball.

A version of the game was first played at a riding school in London in the 1930s, and it was developed into the present day game in Australia. It’s still most widely played in Australia, but is a growing sport in the UK, with 16 clubs nationwide.

Anna Kimber Tarbuck of Celyn Polocrosse Club in North Wales competed in more traditional disciplines, mainly dressage, before trying polocrosse as part of a Pony Club ‘have a go’ session about 10 years ago.

“I’ve been hooked ever since!” she says. “I’m now a UKCC level 2 polocrosse coach, a manager on our player development pathway, and the UK Polocrosse Association (UKPA) administrator. It really is a sport that changes your life! Any horse can give it a go, but they must be comfortable in close contact with other horses. Most are surprisingly accepting of the racquet and ball, and it’s a great sport for retrained racehorses to have a go at as they tend to love it.

“Polocrosse is probably one of the most family-friendly and cost effective sports you can play. A typical tournament weekend costs around £65 for a senior player entry (lower for juniors) and normally includes both your Saturday evening meal and entertainment. There’s always a really fun and relaxed atmosphere — it’s like a weekend away with your mates, but with a competition thrown in. It’s one of the few sports where you will see UK World Cup players right alongside novice players. We even have a lead rein division at most events so that all the family can get involved.”

Rachael Duhig of the Cotswold Polocrosse Club was born and raised in Texas, and came from an equestrian background. Her father started playing when she was five and she followed him onto the pitch two years later. She’s represented the USA at international level, coming fourth in the 2011 World Cup before moving to the UK, where she also came fourth on behalf of her new adopted country in the 2015 World Cup.

According to Rachael, if polocrosse seems like too much of a challenge for you, it could be more accessible than you think.

“I do lots of coaching in the UK Player Development Pathway and also at local riding schools and Pony Clubs,” she says. “When I begin a lesson with a complete novice, they are wondering how on earth they will be able to do any of the things I’m explaining to them. To everyone’s amazement, they pick up each skill quite fast, and the smile on their face is priceless when they achieve their first pick up or bounce! We have different levels, from little ones on the lead-rein, to adult beginners all the way up to the fast and furious top division, the A grade.”

Anna adds: “A lot of players will have come to the sport already being accomplished in another discipline, and that definitely helps — it’s amazing how many transferable skills most riders already have,” adds Anna. “If you’ve come from dressage or jumping, your horse will already be responsive which helps in ride offs and tactical play. We also have a lot of parents who decide that if they are bringing the kids they might as well have a go themselves, and they learn to ride so that they can play — it’s not unusual to see teenagers cheering on their mums and dads in the morning, and then vice versa in the afternoon!”

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If you’d like to have a go, you can find your regional rep on the UK Polocrosse Association (UKPA) website (https://ukpolocrosse.co.uk/). They’ll put you in touch with your nearest club or coach, and also be able to give you details of training sessions, any upcoming tournaments, and how to have a first go. If you don’t have your own horse they will also be able to help with options. Racquets and balls are provided by the clubs.

“I love that it’s a real team sport, which is something you don’t get with most equestrian disciplines,” says Anna. “Do get in touch with your nearest club and just go along to a club practice to get a feel for the game — I can guarantee that after your first go you will want more!”

The Polocrosse World Cup is currently underway in Australia from 22 to 28 April — find out more here.

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