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Column by Henri de By

There are few terms that bring such a mix of excitement and anticipation as the

words: spring training. In the US, major league baseball teams traditionally travel to

their well-appointed training camps in Florida. Going south, to take advantage of the

early sunshine, gives players the opportunity to sharpen their skills after the long

winter and to get back into the rhythm.

With snow still on the ground but the English season approaching, the polo-

equivalent of such a trip might be a good plan while your groom gets the horses

ready. Starting up in warm weather — before those chilly chukkers at the beginning

of the UK season — is a good way to get back into the swing of things. For those not

playing arena polo, it might even save you from strains and pains after a long winter.

What it will not save is money, as such trips come with a price tag. Cheap is

not a word ever to be used in connection with polo, unless you want to either look

pompous or score some laughs — possibly both. However, polo schools in Argentina

offer a good deal at a day-rate of between US$350-400. Compared to most hotels

that is quite reasonable when taking into account that for this polo estancias not

merely offer a room. Included are three meals a day (and often free drinks), as well

as two ponies for stick&ball in the morning, frequently with instruction thrown in,

and in the afternoon horses to play four chukkers with professional players. Of

course, there is the long-haul flight from England to Argentina, which is costly. And

you do need to find sufficient time to get away.

Fortuitously, when it comes to making an early start for the English season,

there is now also an Argentine polo school that during spring operates in

Sotogrande, Spain. After all, a round-trip flight to nearby Malaga or Gibraltar will set

you back only between £100-150. At this school, named El Rincon Del Polo

(elrincondelpolo.com), for a daily rate between €400-450 depending on length of

stay, 3-goaler Estani Puch offers the usual program of polo both morning and

afternoon, including full-board and lodgings at a charming Spanish finca or an

adjacent monastery converted into a hotel. If you can spare a week, or even just a

weekend, it is an excellent way to get a drop on the competition. Time to start

thinking about spring.