Saturday, July 16, 2016

Grip the Reins, Hit the Ball: Discovering Polo in Luxembourg

PCL tournament photo by Christian Schaack
Dressed up in high heels and skirts, slacks and polos, or just regular jeans and t-shirts, families and friends gathered together to watch the 4th Luxembourg Polo International Tournament. The tournament events lasted over the course of four days, in which six adult and two kid’s teams competed against each other for the championship cup with players from Luxembourg, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina, and Chile.
Tournament photo by Christian Schaack
 The Game

Polo is a team sport played on horseback. Each team consists of 4 players who try and score goals against the opposing team by hitting a wooden or plastic ball with a long-handled mallet. One game or match lasts approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours and is subsequently divided into periods called chukkers. The game is played on a 300 yard long by 160 yard wide field, and after a goal is scored the team switches ends of the field. 
Tournament photo by Christian Schaack
When teams are formed they are categorized by the level of skill of the individual players. This is known as a handicap, and the sum of the four player’s handicaps becomes the team handicap. Handicaps can range from -2 to 10 and are determined by a formal professional committee or national federation.
Team photo by Val Wagner
Equipment for the players consists of balls, helmets, knee guards, mallets, protective ware like gloves, face-masks, eye wear, elbow pads, or mouth guards. Whereas equipment for the horses consists of leg wraps, which protect the legs from injury as well as provide support, bridles, saddles, saddle pads, and other pieces as preferred by the rider.   
Protective gear and riding equipment photo by Christian Schaack
The Horse

The “Polo Pony”, a term used for polo horses, and rider, are a team and together should be in the best condition in order to perform in the most efficient manner. The horses must be full sized, agile, in good health and stature, and proficiently trained in the game of polo.
Polo horses photo by Christian Schaack
During the game the horses are required to endure a lot of sprinting, turns, abrupt stops, and more which is very taxing on their physique. This is why players change horses throughout the game and sometimes during the same chukker.

The horses must be properly groomed prior to participating in a game. Manes and tails must be kept out of the way so that they do not get caught in the player’s mallets or reins.
Properly groomed horse photo by Christian Schaack

Founded in 2004, Alexander Ludorf, Vice President of the board, explained that the PCL was established for three main reasons. The first was to create an organization where people could play professional polo. The second was to create an inviting atmosphere where friends could gather and network. The third was to show Luxembourg what Polo is all about.
Evening events photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Although the club is relatively young, the PCL has been successful in attracting new members and sponsors. The club welcomes beginners, kids, and professionals, and has horses available for use for those who do not yet own their own. The club now has grown to incorporate approximately 150 members, two polo fields, 40+ polo horses, a polo trainer and regular courses.
Tournament event viewing area photo by Val Wagner
Alexander educated us on the four steps required for those interested in joining. Initially the person must engage in a test course which consists of three one hour lessons which allows the club to gage the person’s level of experience. The second step is to proceed to becoming a Stick and Ball” member where individuals can join in the club’s training sessions. The third step is to become a “Playing member”. The final step is becoming eligible for participation in tournaments which requires a minimum handicap level of -2.
Championship cups photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
The PCL teams are mixed with women and men of varying ages. The horses must be at least three years old, which is the earliest they can start training, and can go until 18. Players are required to have a minimum of two horses for each match and must change horses for each chukker. The club has a trainer that evaluates the player’s level of skill and suggests when they are ready to go before the federation in order to advance to the next handicap.  

In the past, Polo has had the reputation of being an event reserved for the elite, but according to Alexander this is a stereotype that the PCL is trying to overcome. The 4th Polo International Tournament was a vibrant, entertaining, and action packed four day event. General admission was free to the public although the option to purchase VIP packages was available.
Tesla showcasing photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Many people came due to their curiosity or love of the sport, while others were attracted by the showcased vehicles courtesy of Honda, Range Rover, Tesla, and more. A barbeque, drink bar, mobile coffee cart, and other refreshments were available on site. Entertainment included a fashion show, wine tasting, parade, charity auction and dinner, garden party, hot air balloon tour for winner of the kid’s cup, party bus for the players, and more. A beach area and picnic tables were set up for the viewers to comfortably enjoy watching the match. Attendees could also enjoy browsing the art stands or getting their picture taken.
Fashion shoot red carpet photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch
Petopia Luxembourg is a newly designed web platform that serves as a one-stop-shop for pet owners in the Luxembourg region. One of the services we provide is to feature upcoming animal related events, and after learning about and promoting the PCL International Tournament, the team decided to attend due to our curiosity of the sport and love for animals. We had a lovely and educational experience. We are appreciative of the hospitality of the club, especially Alexander for taking the time to be interviewed prior to playing in his match, and look forward to learning more and attending future events.
Alexander Ludorf  (right) and friend (left) photo by Henri Schwartz & Jean-Paul Frisch

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