As a Chinese native, I didn’t know anything about polo. We used to play jianzi and other games; I also did a bit of track and field. However, there’s a part of me that admires any kind of high-class sport from Britain. (Are there any of us peasants who don’t?)
Full of admiration, I went to the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club to get a sneak peak of their Junior Equestrian and Polo Programme (JEPP).
JEPP is designed for ages 12 to 18 and teaches the basics of polo, including horse riding, basic polo tactics, wooden horse practice (practice polo on wooden horce), and more. The program runs on weekends and includes a one-night stay in the club’s hotel.
To find out more about polo and the program, I had a talk with John Fisher, the director of stable operations at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club.
John Fisher started playing polo at the age of 12 and has played polo all over the world. He is now working as the Director of Stable Operations at Metropolitan Polo Club. He is also part of JEPP leadership team.
What can kids learn from playing polo?
To bond with other people and play in a team game helps you in a lot of ways; you learn how to interact with other people and to deal with different situations in the field, which can help you in your life. And you are riding a horse, so it helps to look after little animals as well, which helps children develop.
The program is for kids from ages 12-18. How do you deal with such a wide range?
If we get 40 kids and ten of them are 12-years-old, that would be one group. During the day, 12-year-olds might start with horse riding while the 18-year-olds do wooden horse, and then we rotate. There are also other things they can do at the hotel: taichi in the morning, yoga, the gym … From the moment they get in until they leave, they are busy doing something.
Do you have different sizes of horses?
Yes, we have got 260 horses here. We have some high goal horses, which are the top-end for when we have the huge tournaments like the Snow Polo (polo on snow field). On the other scale, we have beginner horses, which are for kids, women, and beginners.
How long does it take for young beginners to be able to play polo?
Every individual is different; some will learn quicker than others. In England, I have met people who within two days were on their own without anybody holding the horse when they are walking around hitting the ball. But obviously, if you want to get good at something, you have to keep coming back and learning.
The program is only two days; how far can kids go after taking this course?
They would learn the basics of riding, understand how to hold the stick, how to hit the ball, and then it depends on each individual. But the idea is to get kids involved, to actually come and have a go. If they like it, they can keep coming back. Most children in England and Europe have ridden a horse, so what we are trying to do the same for China. It’s a great way to get kids out the house, getting them off the computers, and interacting with other kids, interacting with people from all over the world.
There’s a lot of equipment needed for polo, such as helmets, boots and knee pads. Do students need to purchase them for this program?
Here we have a shop, but of course, if you join JEPP, we provide the equipment, so you don’t have any costs unless you decide. It’s the same with anything, you want to play hockey, start as new, as you make improvements, then say “oh mum, I really like hockey, can you buy the shoes?” you know it is one of those things, the further down of the level you get, maybe you start buying you own equipment, but for this JEPP, we provide everything.
To know more about JEPP, click here.