An afternoon of Polo at Deauville

For the last two weeks, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy have showcased not only the eight official disciplines of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (Jumping, Endurance, Eventing, Dressage, Driving, Para-Dressage, Reining and Vaulting), but also two demonstration disciplines: a Horseball exhibition tournament, which was held at Saint-Lô equestrian centre from 27th to 31st August, and an afternoon Polo demonstration at Deauville International Polo Club, which took place from 2pm on Saturday 6th September. We look back on this sunny afternoon of sport!

An afternoon of Polo at Deauville
© Sindy Thomas

Two thousand spectators flocked to attend the Polo demonstration, basking in the sunshine on this warm Norman day. Long-time Polo fans and keen players rubbed shoulders with first-timers, who were eager to learn about this chic and spectacular sport.

The afternoon began with an energetic warm-up: a Junior Polo match on Shetland ponies! It was a chance to show the spectators that Polo is a fun-filled discipline, which can be enjoyed by all ages and on any kind of horse or pony. Successfully distancing itself from the sport’s clichés, which can sometimes cloud people’s judgement of the game, this opening half of the Polo demonstration was informal, fun and entertaining for all involved.

The youth teams then came out, pushing their ponies to the limit in order to give the crowd a good show. At the end of the match, these youngsters could be seen grinning ear to ear after playing on the legendary Deauville International Polo Club turf. “It’s a real opportunity for us to be able to play on such a big and beautiful field. It’s our first time, and it was awe-inspiring, even more so because it’s the World Equestrian Games. In some ways it’s a dream come true. It’s magical!” exclaimed one of the young players from the Junior Polo team after their performance.

Next it was the turn of the professional players and their stunning steeds to take centre stage. The French Polo team squared up against “The rest of the world”; that is, four of the best professional Polo players from around the globe.

It was time for things to get serious. The riders astonished the crowds with their spectacular demonstration match, which was held over six chukkas lasting seven minutes each. The horses galloped flat-out from one end of the field to the other, the cheers and applause from the crowds after every goal created a remarkable atmosphere in the heart of this kingdom of Polo. To the delight of the French spectators, Les Bleus claimed a 10-6 victory in this high-octane match.

Throughout the day, spectators could also enjoy a host of other entertainment activities:

  • Photo sessions and prizes with Norman, the official Games mascot
  • At each change-over, spectators were invited to help stamp in the divots, an opportunity to have a closer look at the Polo ponies
  • An Exhibitors’ Village, with asweet stand selling delicious crêpes and Italian ice creams; a Champagne-tasting stand overlooking the field; a “Tierra de Gauchos” stand selling polo products, both to spectators and players; a press stand; and an official Games boutique

All in all, it was a wonderfully sunny day of sport, bringing a little-known discipline to the fore!

These players will all be in action again next week at the French Open Polo tournament in Chantilly. Polo competitions will also take place throughout the whole of September at Deauville International Polo Club. Come along and take a look!

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