I'm a huge fan of educational tourism.
It's becoming more and more popular for vacationers to take a class in local offerings while on their far-flung adventures. You want to learn local cooking techniques? Take a class! You're interested in the language? Take a class!
Buenos Aires stands out as one of the world's educational tourism capitals, because quite frankly, it has a lot to teach us! While vacationing in the Argentine capital it's possible to take classes in Spanish, art, wine, cooking, photography, tango and even polo. And these are just the popular ones.
In the month of January I'll be learning from all of these classes, and passing onto you what's possible when tourism and schooling combine, starting with the sport of polo. Learning to play beginner's polo can happen in just a single day:
It's as Easy as Jumping on a Horse
I'm not kidding, it really is that easy! When I was first told that absolutely no prior experience on a horse was necessary to learn beginner's polo, I didn't fully believe it. However it was quickly proven. In a one day lesson a person can go from knowing very little about a horse and thinking Polo was Marco's last name -- all the way to playing a practice match with fellow students. It really was an incredible sport to learn.
Picture Perfect Field
The grounds at Polo Elite, where I took my lesson, were meticulously manicured making for an ideal learning environment. Its location on a gorgeous estate just outside Buenos Aires enhanced the enjoyment of the lesson and put me in the mindset of the game.
A Regal Game
Our instructor was exceptionally patient and an amazing teacher for those who have difficulty picking up new skills. And it's absolutely true, you'll look as amazing on the horse as he does in this photograph.
Man's Second Best Friend
I cannot say enough about these gentile beauties. The horses we were introduced to at the estate were without a doubt the most well mannered and best trained I'd ever ridden. Professional Polo horses make the game much easier to learn by knowing themselves exactly what maneuvers to execute as you ride them.
Swing and Connect
At first it did seem daunting to look down from atop a moving horse at a tiny ball on the ground which you need to hit, but hours of practice had me hitting the ball almost every time. I will admit that I swung and missed quite a bit at first, but that quickly changed to swinging, connecting, and moving the ball down the field (albeit not always in the desired direction).
Does Polo Have Rules...
... or do you just hit the ball down the court? Actually you pick up all the rules by the end of the day's lesson since your final test is a scrimmage game with your fellow polo pupils.
If you're the type who can get a little too competitive, even at things you've just learned, don't worry, the instructors make sure they are in the scrimmage to keep things running smoothly. I must say though, our team USA did defeat team Argentina!
Photographs by Kevin Richberg taken at Polo Elite outside Buenos Aires, Argentina.