Image courtesy of Palm Beach Post Image courtesy of Palm Beach Post
By Amy Phillips Penn
“Playing polo is like trying to play golf during an earthquake.” — Sylvester Stallone
 “Polo is the passport to the world.” – Winston Churchill

 

Enter the woman polo player who wears the passport with pride, whether encased in Gucci or crumpled rawhide case.

Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Amy Penn

Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Amy Penn

Polo has not always been woman friendly, to be euphemistic in its best Marilyn come-and-get-it whisper.

It’s been a man’s world — an old boy’s club with swinging mallets and balls that hurt when they hit.

This snub does not apply to horses, as mares are more often the player’s choice.

Geldings beware!

I first took a mallet in hand and heart, at what once was the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club.

“We’ve seated you next to the most eligible bachelor at dinner,” one of the founders of the cub informed me, the night before.

The ink on my divorce papers was barely out of its stuttering Rorschach phase, and so was my inclination to meet a new man.

A friend in the hunter/jumper world informed me that I had a classic case of “f.o.a.n.s.”, as if that helped or I could even Morse it out.

She cleared up the riddle for me (it stands for fear of a new stallion), but the phobia rocked on.

I was seated next to an attractive man named Adam, whose father was a famous writer. Adam described himself as a “scribe,” as well.

Meantime, my friend Julie was next to a man who looked like a composite of every man I’d ever been attracted to. She and I had this bizarre recurring twilight zone-esque history of being seated next to someone who the other one found attractive or vice versa.

To make matters even less sane, his name was Adam too, or two, which is all “too-too.”

“Who’s that?” I asked a family friend, who was standing nearby.

“That’s not for you. He looks exactly like all your exes,” he warned, prepared to tie me down in polo wraps if necessary.

By the end of the evening, I had said a polite goodnight to Adam One, who promised to call me in the morning, and arrange to give me my first polo lesson. Whatever.

Meanwhile, back in our room, Julie and I had the kind of polite interchange about Adam Two, meant to conserve friendships, or fodder for future defense.

“You take him, if you really want him,”

“No, he’s yours.”

So much for toe shoes on curried quail eggshells dialogues.

Julie and Adam spent the rest of the night getting to know each other on the polo field. They were politely awakened Palm Beach style, as the sprinkler system let them have it.

Julie arrived in the room a few soaked minutes later, as Adam One called. He had polo ponies waiting for us

He put a mallet in my hand, and that was it.

Image courtesy of David Lominska

Image courtesy of David Lominska

All the jumps on the hunt course, the crazy gallops around Central Park, and even backstage at Madison Square Garden at the National Horse Show, dissipated into one inadequate memory.

Coming out of an era when even the best female polo players had to sign in with their first initial, and deepen their voice to be considered a man, the path had been paved into a woman’s “yes, you can” play polo.

There were still so many feminine touches within the polo world. One of my favorites was a friend who wore a lacey red bra under her sports bra. After the game, she would strip one off to play a sexier off field game.

I was lucky enough to have several polo ponies, one who infinitely preferred to jump, and went on to whinny a big “phew” when he was an instant champion in the show ring.

Image courtesy of David Lominska

Image courtesy of David Lominska

While my current love, Diosa, and I don’t play anymore, her ears perk up when she’s around a polo field. I lovingly show off her bridle which shows off the faded words “Best Playing Polo,” from a woman’s tournament at the Palm Beach International Polo Club.

She often kicked the ball into the goal, when she had the right of way, and it counted.

Polo has turned my world upside down, into sultry nomadic adventures, with spectacular horses, and men that most of us only dream about.

I love the generosity of polo, the inclusion, and giving the new player, or young girl at junior polo, a leg up into the oldest team sport in the world.

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