Aren’t British Summer traditions just the best? Admittedly they would be that bit better if the weather wasn’t quite so *ahem* unpredictable but drizzle aside, few things beat an afternoon spent watching tennis, cricket, racing or as is the subject of this post, polo. A couple of weeks ago a very exciting email arrived in my inbox, inviting me to spend a day enjoying that poshest of pursuits courtesy of cooler than cool designer e-tailer, Avenue 32. But, as I soon realised, this invitation wasn’t just to watch polo, oh no, Avenue 32 would be treating us to an actual polo lesson at Guards Polo Club too!
As you may or may not know, I spent most of my childhood and early teenage years clad in jodhpurs and aboard (or not aboard) various stroppy ponies. So when the opportunity arose to get back in the saddle, I didn’t need to be asked twice. In fact I got so over excited about the whole thing I even dug out all my riding gear and felt pretty profesh and generally smug as I set out for the Karla Otto offices (where we’d be meeting to get our suitably posh coach to Windsor)… Until I arrived that is. I don’t know whether you ever had the experience of dressing up to the nines for home clothes day at school only to discover that the older, cooler girls didn’t bother and subsequently feeling like world’s biggest fool in your spangly frock. Well, I had the unpleasant experience of re-living that feeling of mortification when I arrived clad in head-to-toe riding gear (including a “Keep Hunting” polo shirt… cringe) to discover that everyone else was wearing Current Elliott jeans, flat sandals and leather jackets. Add to that the fact that my fellow polo goers included journo’s from Grazia, Vogue, i-D and POP Magazines and it should come as no surprise to hear that I felt like a prize idiot. Still there was no going back so I decided to just try not to give away how embarrassed I was. After forty five minutes of merry chatting on the bus I’d almost forgotten about my attire and arrived ready and raring to go.
We drew up alongside the immaculate polo pitch to be greeted by a line up of equally immaculate ponies and two tables laden with coffee, croissants and bacon sandwiches. Once we’d all re-caffeinated ourselves three dashing chaps (who, it transpired, were in fact England team polo coaches!) appeared and it was time to get the lesson underway.
After kicking off with a bit of on-foot hitting practice we progressed to wooden model horses (so we could practice using full size clubs without risk of knocking real life nags unconscious) and then finally to the beasts themselves. As one of the few of us with much riding experience, I was assigned “Black Bird”, a gratifyingly up for it animal who lept to attention at the slightest squeeze of my heels. The horsey ones among you probably know this already but for those that don’t, riding polo style is totally different to other types. With one hand devoted to holding the wrist achingly heavy stick, steering, stopping and starting is done solely with the other hence why, as one of the dashing coaches told us, polo players are dubbed “cowboys” by the rest of the equestrian community. This one handed riding style means that the ponies have to be insanely well trained and riding Black Bird was like cruising in a well oiled automatic sports car. But while I loved being able to turn my steed with a subtle flick of the wrist, actually trying to hit the ball was another thing. I did manage a couple of decent shots but there was a lot more random flailing than stick/ball contact. Flailing aside, by the time our hour was up I was hooked. Black Bird better watch out as I may be returning soon!
After a couple of semi-successful attempts to get a group shot of us all on horseback we dismounted and piled back onto the coach to hit the spa for a little post polo beautification. Much as I love riding gear, I was pretty relieved to change into something that a) didn’t smell of horse and b) wouldn’t make me feel like quite such an over keen loser. Given the murky weather, even I didn’t feel brave enough to attempt bare legs so opted for the paisley trouser suit I bought in Topshop last september. Once everyone was suitably groomed it was back onto the bus (didn’t actually have to walk all day, awesome) and off to the Avenue 32 pop up boutique AKA the reason we were enjoying a lovely day at Guards Polo Club. I can’t imagine that recreating a store ambiance online is exactly a walk in the park but translating a slick website into an actual, 3D “thing” must be seriously difficult. The fact that the hub of stylish cool that is Avenue 32 managed it perfectly was both impressive and entirely unsurprising.
It’s basically an unwritten rule that no matter what time a fashion event is held, large amount of champagne must be served. Generally speaking, I steer clear of the booze until at least 6 o’clock but decided to make an exception on this occasion and accepted a glass while we cooed over Avenue 32’s exciting new designers. Over a long and extremely delicious lunch in the exclusive Guards Club House conversation expanded to cover everything from love lives to leather trousers. It’s not that often I get to sit down and have a good, long chat with the editors behind my favourite fash mags and the founder of a hotter-than-hot designer emporium so it was a real privilege to get to last week.
By the time we’d polished off pudding (a delectable fruit parfait type thing) it was time for the Cartier Queen’s Cup Semi Final to begin and we headed, or rather waddled, out to take our seats alongside the pitch. As with any sport, professional polo players make it look like an absolute piece of cake. Having experiences how impossible it is to hit a ball while sitting on a walking horse just hours before, I was truly awestruck by the handsome chaps galloping around the field. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t entirely understand what was going on or who was who but still got stuck in whooping and cheering until it was time to go home.
Thank you Avenue 32 and Karla Otto for a fantastic day! Watch this space for my potential career change…
Love Ella. X