About Natania

I started playing polo in the mid 1990’s.  I have loved horses all my life and a friend convinced me to try polo, which, he explained, would combine my passion for horses with two sports I had played in my youth: soccer and tennis.  I fell in love with polo within the first five minutes of my first lesson.  That first season, I took group lessons once a week.  I felt I made reasonable progress, but come fall, the lessons ended, the horses disappeared, and the doors of the arena where I had practiced were closed (quite literally, with chains and padlocks).  I was not in a position to travel the world to play polo and so had to patiently wait for the next season to begin.

To my horror, I spent the first two months of the next season trying to catch up to where I was at the end of the prior season.  By the end of my second season, I felt that I had made very little progress.  I also grew a little frustrated because I could not find anyone to teach me polo in the same way that I had been taught other sports such as tennis or soccer.  With polo, no one seemed to have a lesson plan.  There was no systematic way a student of the sport could progress.  You were just thrown out there, in a group, with minimal instructions.  I was told not to worry too much about the rules, for that would make me too hesitant in a game (I would later come to appreciate just how wrong-headed that advice was).  By mid-season, I was told that I should move from the polo school to the polo club, and should enter a team in some of the leagues.  I followed that advice, but I wasn’t ready to hire a pro, so I joined a team made entirely of amateurs.  I had expected my teammates, who were far more experienced that I (and who had the handicaps to prove it), to carry me, but they could not.   They were hardly better than I was (despite years of practice), and we lost every game we played.  Adding to my frustration was the sound of the umpire's whistle, which seem to come randomly.  I never had a clue as to what I had done wrong, but , every once in a while, my teamates seem to, and they gave me a few dirty looks.

For my third season, I hired a pro.  We started winning games.  I purchased three horses (one good one and two bad ones, but that’s another story).  But it was still not a great season.  I was frustrated by how difficult it was to make progress.  My pro was an excellent player, but I had a hard time learning much about hitting technique, game strategy, or polo horsemanship just from playing with him.  It is hard to appreciate what exactly the pro is doing when you know as little as I did about the sport.   Moreover, playing opportunities in the arena were limited to just once a week. at best.   So, we won a lot of games, but I was also painfully aware that it was my pro who scored all the goals.  I just ran around.  Polo was just not working out for me.  I imagine that the sport loses a lot of players at this stage, and it almost lost me.   Instead, I built a regulation-size outdoor arena.  I made sure it had excellent drainage with the hope that I could use it year-round.  I went to every rules clinic I could, including those out of town.  I asked every good player I met  for advice on some aspect of the sport.   I also went to every Twilight game (there were still good players in those games back then)  and watched the pros. Since they couldn’t explain to me how they played, I decided I would have them reveal their secrets to me in another way:  I would watch the pros carefully and analyze their strokes.  Then, I would replicate those moves as best I could (that’s a tough process because it is very hard to notice all the things they do).  The arena at home made all the difference, and I practiced as often as I could.  I also took some clinics offered by Tom Goodspeed and Rege Ludwig (a great, big “thank you” to both of them -- both are great players and great instructors) and I  realized that some instructors could in fact explain how to play the game!!!


A few years later, I started coaching my first interscholastic team.  Coaching allowed me to take all I had learnt in the prior years, organize it, categorize it, and most importantly, learn to explain it in a coherent way.  I loved coaching middle and high school students.  My only frustration was that, having access only to an outdoor arena, we could practice only once a week (some of the parents did not want to spend both weekend days at polo, and it got too dark to play after school during the week).  Yet, we had to compete against teams that did have access to indoor arenas and practiced 4 or 5 times a week.  Despite this obvious disadvantage, in 2005, the Natania team won the Southeast Regionals, held at UVA, and went on to play at  the Nationals at Cornell University.

Fast forward to 2010: our beautiful indoor arena is built and ready for play.  I still love to play polo.  I also love to teach what I have learnt over the years, with the hope that my coaching will allow others to make much faster progress than I did.  I have a lesson plan, I have developed my own drills, and I can teach polo in the same manner as other sports.

2013/2014 Update: The Natania Open Varsity team has now won the USPA's Open Interscholastic National Championship two years running!!! Both tournaments were held in Indio, CA.

With two arenas and no grass field, Natania is an arena polo club.  Here, polo players who actually want to learn the game (as opposed to players who want to hire pros as teammates and play "fantasy polo") can learn to play arena polo (horsemanship, rules, hitting technique and strategy) in an organized, systematic way. 
 

Natania Farm & Polo Club8270 March Wales RoadWarrenton, VA 20186P.540.229.5609F.866.430.7101