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Coworth Park hotel in Ascot is the only luxury UK stay where you can learn to play polo. Don’t worry if the Jilly Cooper novels hidden at the back of your bookcase are the closest you’ve ever come to a stable – even our complete beginner was a convert after her first taste of polo at Coworth Park.

We’re big fans of trying new things here at Smith HQ, so when a new polo academy was launched in the lush grounds of luxurious Coworth Park, I — the only person in the building who’d never been anywhere near a horse before — was immediately dispatched to investigate.

The new learning facility – Guards Polo Academy at Coworth Park – is run by Andrew Hine, who has overseen countless victories as both captain and manager of the English national team… and yet was still willing to lead me extremely slowly around a field as I got used to being on horseback for the very first time. Of course, there’s more to polo than just not falling off the horse: there’s the whole hitting-balls part, too…

Once I was successfully in my saddle, I was handed my mallet and Andrew patiently helped me hit the ball at least two thirds of the time, without clocking myself or the horse in the head even once. Meanwhile, my more experienced classmates – one was off to play in a polo match for real later in the day – were cantering merrily around receiving expert instruction on improving their swing.

A quick goal competition and much laughter later, and it was sadly time to hand back my glossy steed (and borrowed helmet) and be delivered swiftly by golf cart to a celebratory lunch at the hotel’s top-class but low-key Barn restaurant, where the sturdy stone floor means hungry riders needn’t take off their boots (and the fudge we nibbled with our coffee was unanimously declared the best ever).

Join Andrew and his team at the Coworth Park for an hour-long private lesson from £160, or book a half- or full-day Discover Polo experience: remember, an achy mallet arm is an entirely acceptable excuse for a visit to Coworth’s luxurious spa for a massage. For a more sedate way to enjoy the sport of kings, pop next door to Guards Polo Club and watching the pros at work: take in the thundering hooves and battle cries from the safety of the stands between May and September each year.

Photos by Rachel Juarez-Carr

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