So, whilst the eventers have finally been getting to the first fixtures of the season, the showing shows are underway and the happy hackers are enjoying the lighter nights; for polo players all eyes are on the start of the grass season. Getting out on the grass is something that I am both ridiculously excited and horribly anxious about. (The Wimpy Dichotomy!) I’ve never played Pataca on grass, I only got her at Christmas. Will she suddenly switch from Perfect Princess to Wild Pony of the Pampas? (She won’t. She’s basically a unicorn.)
Before that all kicks off, the big event of the early Spring at my club has been the Frostbite League. It’s the first time I’ve played competitively. It’s also the first time I’ve ever been in a team and had to worry about letting the side down. That’s been a strong motivator to suck it up. I’ve only had one ‘moment’ where play had to be held up until I stopped hyperventilating. (I am not exaggerating, I wish I was!) Seriously though, for someone who was too scared to canter this time last year and who spent a lot of her early polo lessons close to tears, playing in these matches has been unreal. I look at the photos and can’t quite believe it’s me. I think we’ve come either joint third or fourth out of five teams but I’m as proud as if we’d won the league!
Becoming part of this amazing team has made me realise that all of us who identify as ‘wimpy’ – we’re all in different places with our horses. I know people might look at me and think ‘Susan is out playing polo, she can’t be *that* nervous, flying about and swinging mallets’. But that’s the thing. We all have our own battles. You don’t know what other people are struggling with.
My polo club posted a photo of me on Facebook saying that I’d joined as a nervous rider but that no-one would know that now watching me canter around. And I loved that. But it reminded me that appearances can be deceptive and I bet that’s true for so many of us. I have come on so much, but I haven’t suddenly become a brave and bold rider. I am usually pushing myself as hard as I can to do what I do. I have been so, so lucky with my pony, she is genuinely a saint. For the most part, on her, I do not feel nervous right now. That’s huge for me. I would never underestimate the difference that the right horse can make and she’s perfect for me.
Polo might seem a strange choice for a nervous rider, but the reality is that a lot of the time I’m playing very sedately and a lot of the time I’m missing the ball. I’m just learning. I’m pretty sure that Juan, the Director of Polo at my club, can’t believe how slow I go – “Vamos, Susan, vamos!”- but he and our Club Director Karina are kind to me and they make me believe that I can do this.
Polo has worked out for me for a variety of reasons. It was everything I needed at that point in time coming together at once. The atmosphere and support of everyone at Stewarton Polo Club and of my polo friends who had pushed me in that direction. The amazing horses I rode who started to give me confidence that I just hadn’t had before. (Vera, Bambam, Pintada and Pataca, this means YOU GUYS!) The way that when you chase a ball, you forget to worry about what the horse might do. The yard parties! Polo is a lot of fun. It was fun that had been missing for me.
I will probably always be a nervous rider. The potential for sudden relapse of crippling nerves is always going to be there. Accepting that and starting to embrace who I am and where I am at, which is such a big theme in Diary of a Wimpy Eventer, is the best thing I’ve done. Its why I applied to be on this team. I AM a bit of a wimp, yes, but I’m trying bloody hard to do the things I dream of.
We all do different things with our horses and have different goals, but we all share that curse of the thing we love the most being the thing that sometimes scares us the most.
So, come on. Wimpy Riders of the World, Unite! All vibes for our first grass chukkas are very, very gratefully received!