Pop up polo

The farm

Stick and

 

flowers

 

The world’s oldest ball game is only beginning in Denmark and in a historic area near Copenhagen where vikings used to trade.

 

Text and photos Camilla Alfthan

 

The British one goaler, Greg Greening is managing the club which last year moved into the former dairy farm, Dyrehavegaard, in the suburbs of Copenhagen just a stones throw from the Klampenborg race track. The Danish flag is hoisted on the goal posts of the playing fields where there are daily lessons and chuckers.

The overall idea is to present the sport to the Danes who have a long tradition in dressage and show jumping but who, interestingly, never had any polo.

 

”People come to take lessons and a few members have their ponies stabled her.  Guests range from 14 year-old teens and groups of friends to wealthy people in their 50s and 60s who are taking up the game,” tells Greening, 21, who has come to Denmark for the second year in a row.

As the opportunity to develop the sport was so tempting he put his own game on hold, settling for arena polo in England where he’s been playing at Cowdray and Berkshire.

 

Hunters and show jumpers have helped to bring attention to the sport which is still considered exotic despite the fact that Denmark has around 200,000 horses – a considerable amount for a population of just five million people. Demonstration matches have taken place across the country including the 2013 Copenhagen Polo Open in the heart of the capital with players such as Ross Ainsley (7)  and Ryan Pemble (6).  (The same year an unrelated Copenhagen Cup was held at Guards Polo Club in Berkshire and captured by Eton with the half Danish player, George Pearson on the team.)

 

During the four year preparation of the Copenhagen Polo Open the organizers, Louise Sandberg and Jacob Klingert experienced a great interest from Danes who wanted to play themselves.

Along with the local business man,  Christian Mellentin,  and a group of other co-founders they started the first polo club in Denmark: Danish Polo Association(DPA) which was founded in 2012.

As for Mellentin, he only picked up the mallet in 2011 while vacationing in the UK.

 

“I grew up with horse riding parents and so, reacted by not taking my riding to any decent level. I just had fun all my life with and around horses without being serious about it until I started playing polo,” he tells.

“I went to the UK every two month for four days of training from morning till dawn. I teamed up with Jason Dixon (former Captain of the UK team and a 6 goaler) and he taught me everything. I followed him back and forth from the Lynt and the Beaufort polo clubs. Then from the end of 2012 I played some more in London upon meeting Louise Sandberg from the event company Copenhagen Polo Open.

Now we have played polo in Denmark for two years – DPA’s second summer season has just ended.”

At the age of 43, Mellentin holds a minus one handicap that he aims to improve.

“So far I’ve played in UK, Sweden, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and France. These days it is mostly for tournaments. I’ve won tournaments at Rugby Polo Club in the UK, the Indian Summer Cup in Germany and Sotogrande in Spain. I ‘ve played semis at Royal Berkshire Polo Club and Chantilly in France.

 

The attraction about this sport is the team play, the tactics, the speed, the fast decision-making – and above all the horsemanship. It’s eighty per cent about the horse once you reach a certain level.  Hitting the ball clean at full speed on a collected horse with all hoofs off ground is addictive! It is the ultimate riding skills combined with hand, eye and ball coordination.

Even though the sport is extremely masculine women play alongside men which has a unique impact in an elegant way. Polo has 2,500 years of history as the most noble activity man can do in collaboration with animals.

The kit and the uniform is very simple – but it is the coolest of cool.

I have tried a few sports in my life but none that have given me so many different motivating aspects and depths of development – it is the King of Sport.

 

Due to my polo travelling I’ve tried many good horses but never for very long. I do go back to some favorites in Spain. But my own two are my favourites as they’ve developed my skills in different ways: One is a very stable hitting platform and will take me to the ball consistently even if I am not precise in my control – she’s forgiving but then not so agile. The other one is my riding teacher as I have to be very precise when I ride her. When I’m playing fast that horse is so agile and flexible – she will let me reach beyond belief.

 

My hopes for the Danish Polo Association are that it continues as the governing body for polo in Denmark supporting the development of clubs.  As the Chairman of DPA starting a new sport has been a lot of voluntary work- on top of paying for everything. My hopes are that the sport will develop in the region so the club – or new clubs – can be run like businesses where I’m just a paying member.
The kit and the uniform is very simple – but it is the coolest of cool.

 

Polo doesn’t have to cost more than having or sharing a horse. Denmark has the highest number of horses per capita in the European Union so there are no excuses. Eighty per cent of the world’s polo players have started after the age of forty without any riding experience – although being younger and having ridden before is an advantage.

 

If you think about all the things that people waste money on … I hope they will spend a couple of days with us and experience how rewarding it is to exercise all your senses and your physique by playing polo.

 

For more information go to http://www.danishpoloassociation.com/

 

 

 

Pony power

 

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