Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finally I manage to get myself out of my hole and do something productive.  I didn't realise until a few days ago that Argentina is the world cradle for Polo; a competitive game involving smashing a ball around a field with a mallet while on horseback.  It's the kind of thing that would be right up my street, and I've been excited to try it since arriving.  It's very much a rich mans play thing though, as us waifs don't normally get the chance to enjoy it.  It's not like you can pop down the shops and pick up a cheap racket to hit a ball around on a court; you need a horse for goodness sake.

"Previous horse riding experience not required" exclaims the poster.  Nonsense.  You'd have to be a bloody idiot to give this a go if you've never been on the back of the beast.  Over the course of the last few months, I feel I've been getting pretty decent at riding, and the more I do it, the more I love it.  Being in control of such a powerful animal as you surge it forward it's exhilarating, but using one as a major piece of equipment in a game is something else entirely.

Usually when you spur a horse into a fast canter or gallop, you're raised on the stirrups and holding on to the pommel of the English saddle and the reins.  That's how I do it anyway so I don't fall off.  Here you're balancing on the stirrups , one hand holding the reigns tight to the horses neck, and the other swinging a big mallet.  It's totally alien and more than a little terrifying, particularly when attempting to turn the horse at speed.  Every leg muscle is engaged to grip the saddle, so much so that in the next few days, my inner thighs feel like they've been panel beaten and I'm walking like John Wayne.

Aside from this, my right arm and wrist is falling off.  I thought they'd be much stronger in swinging a mallet from years of...playing tennis...but it's not long before I just can't lift the thing.  I'm definitely doing it wrong, as I'm using my arm and wrist too much instead of allowing gravity to do the work.  It's agony if you miss the ball, or more often than not, slam the mallet into the turf.  When playing a match, Fernando, our coach and pro player hooks my stick away by smashing my mallet from the ball.  I think he's broken my arm.  Then I decide to man up and get stuck in.  After a short break I start to get the hang of it, gaining the trust of the horse and picking up the pace.  It's brilliant fun, especially when you play a great shot or score a goal.  The feeling of controlling the animal well and wellying the ball some distance is wonderful.  Marrying man and beast in a competitive sport.  Brilliant.

Joining me in this experience are two 60 something American gentlemen, both professors visiting Argentina to do respective talks in their chosen fields.  Both highly intelligent and very interesting, one happens to be a retired very well known Time magazine journalist.  I casually inquire if he has written a book, which he has, and I contemplate passing on the details of my work here for critique.  I'm pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate it though, especially as he takes an interest in pointing out a Mormon church we pass later, perhaps hinting a religious background.  Yet I nearly change my mind when telling him about my theft experiences in Nicaragua when he responds simply with; "fuckers".

The late afternoon sun sets on the Polo fields, I wistfully stare out of the window  as we pull away from the stables and contemplate how the other half live.  A glimpse into another world that reminds me of getting turned on as a teenager watching the TV adaptation of Jilly Coopers Riders.  Girls dig horses.  I'm going to buy one as an extra string to my bow, put on some tight pants with an open collared billowing white shirt and stand whispering to it in a field.  I'd get laid every night.  If not then there's always the horse.


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