A Horse Romance
Fantasy Riders to Reality
The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. -Sharon Ralls Lemon
A Special Tribute: One of my life's blessing is knowing my horse loving, horse riding father in law. Through him i recapatured my little princess dream of galant (horse) men, bestowed with great class and kindness, all in the same place. I will always be grateful for the wonderful example that he was to his son, the beautiful man i call my husband. Thanks Dad!
Where it all begun:
It was John Lennon who said, "I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths and dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?" Which brings me to a part of my life's journey, believe it or not, when i lived out a real fairy tale dream, i'm not so sure i wished for. Perhaps, as i write, i shall come to better understand myself and have another catharsis.
Like many naive little girls, i believed in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. But, why not? It was through these stories that I felt my first 'heart flutterings' caused by being infatuated with the dashing, horse riding 'rescuers'. Then, we got a bit older, but not smarter. Television and the movies gave us the 'bad boys', glamour toughies like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. We didn't know real from reel, we sucked up the enemy's lie about our womanhood. Yes, we set ourselves up for many a heartache, big time. But, not for long, we wisened up, we threw the bras, burned panties and we celebrated our liberation. But, was it?
I never wished to be swept off my feet by a man like Zorro, (remember Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones?). Great action movie. But, by the time i was in high school, men on horses have become no more than just figments of Hollywood's imagination, or at best, they were foreigners who lived in faraway land, and talked funny. I was meeting boys who drove cars, who thought they were men. More often than not, they were immature, aggressive, at times rebellious, and nowhere near valiant. The nice guys were considered weird and boring. The guys who had fancy cars were too showy, and the idealist that i was, picked a bike riding, class genuis nerd to be my very first official boyfriend. It was a nice friendship with lots of good conversation, but it would never blossom. A new boy came to town and turned my life upside down. And, that's story for another time.
I was raised a city girl and i have never set foot on a farm with horses. It was during a summer break, at a resort, that i first rode a horse, a rather small and fragile breed, It carried me through a tourist's trail, and for the entire hour, i was giddy with nerves. Never mind that my legs and butt hurt. I dreaded more the thought of being thrown off the clift by an animal who may not be happy with me as a burden. I couldn't wait to get off! Whatever romantic notion i still had, of a princess wrapped in the arms of her prince charming, riding onto the sunset, was swallowed up by the mountains around me. But, life is surreal. My romance with the horserider was far from over. In fact, it was just about to begin.
My Intro To Polo
Whoever said "It is not how big you are, it's how big you play", could have very well described a polo players credo.
The first polo player i dated was considered one of the wealthiest, most landed, most influential person, who required no introduction when we met, In fact, there was no need to be introduced either, because it was not our first encounter. It was during a stay at his hotel, while on a date with my steady then, that he sat with us and showed me his charm. Upon a friends request, and out of curiosity, I agreed to meet for a foursome fancy dinner. I have dated other powerful men before, and it had become a non-event, if not quite tiresome. Modeling has given me a lot of privileges, of finding the best of the best, but there were many hazards as well. But this time, I was disarmed by a very honorable, down to earth, cowboy like prince. I actually liked him and had a wonderful time. He treated me with great respect, which i reciprocated with friendship. Our first date was followed by an invitation to spend a weekend at his ranch, to which i agreed if a girlfriend would join us. As my host, i was fetched, flown by a private jet to his grandiose 'hacienda', connected to a hotel resort, a golf course and a polo club. It was dreamland all over again. I could easily have been swept off my feet. But, remember, i have grown. I understood life better. A few more dates and 'heart to hearts', came the day of reckoning. A few of my girlfriends in the know thought i was stupid. But, i did turn down a good man's offer, a relationship with very attractive perks. We remained friends though, and later, in one of our conversations, i told him that the lady he was in a relationship with was perfect for him. They would eventually tie the knot and remain together until his death.
I would, as destiny would have it, eventually marry a polo player from an old wealth family. He was all 6 ft, Spanish-lebanese, young prince who shared my own values. While he was not in the same league as the one i turned down, he would provide what was more meaningful and important to me. He was a fine surrogate father to my only child, a man of faith and with complete devotion to our family. As a polo player, he was at the top of the game. One renowned sports writer dedicated his column, regularly, to talk about my husband and his playing skills. Our life revolved around games, practices, competitions and meeting a lot of interesting people, from real live princes, princesses, sultans, name it. It's a world of it's own, unknown to many. My husband and i stayed married for almost 30 years, until he succumbed to liver cancer at age 54. The high life is not something to be coveted, as the stakes are high, in every sense. In many ways, it intrigued me, more as an observer, rather than a participant. If i want, i can write a myriad of stories about the rich and famous, the highs and lows, the joys, and the perils that accompanied their high profile. But, we will leave that for others to do.
There are lessons to be learned in life. I don't know how i found myself mingled with that crowd, going through the motion of living. If at all, it may have been my spiritual desert place, a rather dry journey, where my own folly confronted me, deep. I wanted to find contentment, only to realize, it wasn't in a pretty place or amongst god-like people.
I am now happily (re)married to a 'horseless knight', more handsome than any screen cowboy, or movie star. We didn't meet at a polo field. We met at a photo showing of his Nepal mountain adventure. Although his father was a true horse lover and an expert rider, my guy happens to be allergic to horses, and prefers the adventure of jet setting, mountain climbing, skiing, tennis, reading, food trips, chess and making me laugh. My life is more simple, but not less happier. I will always find horses symbolic of my youths innocence and therefore magical. Polo will remain an exciting game for me to watch. I will treasure the many memories i have of the people i met and loved. Meantime, i am more than delighted to do my own prancing in the virtual world. Giddiyup!
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What is Polo
"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words, it is war minus the shooting... there are quite enough real causes of trouble already, and we need not add to them by encouraging young men to kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators". ~George Orwell.
Polo is a team sport played on horesback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Riders score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional sport of polo is played at speed on a large grass field up to 300 yards in length, and each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts.
Field polo requires two teams of 4 players. A full-size field is 300 yards long, and either 200 yards or 160 yards wide if there are side boards—these are generally 6" high. There are tall collapsable goal posts at each end of the field spread 8 yards apart. The object of the game is to score the most goals by hitting the ball through the goal. Ends are changed after a goal is scored.
A polo game has periods of play, known as chukkers. game may have 4, 6 or 8 chukkers; Each chukker is 7 minutes long, but some games are played in shorter chukkers Between chukkers, the players switch to fresh ponies. In less competitive polo leagues, players may play only two ponies, alternating between them. For more competitive leagues, and in United States intercollegiate polo, each pony is played in at most two chukkers.
More than one pony per player is needed in order to allow tired mounts to be changed for fresh mounts between or even during chukkas. There are typically between 4 to 8 ponies per player. The group of ponies for a given player is commonly referred to as a "string of polo ponies", with a minimum of 2 or 3 ponies in Low Goal matches (with ponies being rested for at least a chukker before reuse), 4 or more ponies for Medium Goal matches (at least one per chukker), many more for the highest levels of competition.
Polo is now an active sport in 77 countries, and although its tenure as an Olympic sport was limited to 1900–1939, in 1998 the International Olympic Committee recognised it as a sport with a bona fide international governing body, the Federation of the International Polo.
After an 18 year absence, polo gained Olympic recognition when it was played at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. Nations that competed in the tournament were Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. The tournament's gold medal was won by the Malaysian team, followed by Singapore with silver and Thailand with bronze.
The recent surge of excitement in south-east Asia around the game has resulted in its popularity in cities such as Pattaya, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. In Pattaya alone, there are 3 active polo clubs (Polo Escape, Siam Polo Park and Thai Polo Equestrian Club . Indonesia, a country without royal ruling, has a polo club (Nusantara Polo Club). A South East Asian Polo Federation was formed with initial meeting in March 2008 that involves Royal Malaysian Polo Association, Thailand Polo Association, Indonesian Polo Association, Singapore Polo Association, Royal Brunei Polo Association and The Philippine Polo Association. More recently, Janek Gazecki and Ruki Baillieu have organised polo matches in parks "around metropolitan Australia, backed by wealthy sponsors.
A new Chinese Equestrian Association has been formed and two new clubs have been formed in China itself: the Beijing Sunny Time Polo Club, founded by Xia Yang in 2004 and the NIne Dragons Hill Polo Club in Shanghai, founded in 2005.