Polo lesson at International Polo Club, Palm Beach, Florida

Author & Photo credits: Beth Pollock


When I heard I’d be taking polo lessons from an instructor named Gates Gridley, I could imagine exactly what he must look like. A gray-haired, grizzled stable hand, who’d lived most of his 80 years in a tack room, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Basically Jack Palance in City Slickers.

Picture my surprise, then, when I walked into the stable at the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, Florida and met an affable young man, who has lived most of his 25 years in a tack room


Instructor Gates Gridley, looking nothing like Jack Palance.


I’d never been to a polo match, so when I heard I’d be visiting Palm Beach, I asked if I could attend one. Alas, the season had just ended, I was told, but how would I like to take a polo lesson?


I should clarify that not only do I not play polo, I don’t know how to ride, either. So I’d actually be learning two sports at once. Which makes sense, because I was approximately as graceful as someone learning to skateboard and play tennis at the same time.

The author with the beautiful horse Osa.

Gates was courteous from the outset. He gave me Osa, a gentle ten-year-old mare, to ride. Since I didn’t have riding boots, Gates wrapped my legs to prevent them from being hit by the mallet. Even more importantly, he also wrapped Osa’s front legs. If I hit my own shin I’d probably bruise and limp a bit, and then I’d get over it. If I accidentally hurt Osa, I’d never forgive myself.


Palm Beach is the international winter equestrian capital, hosting some of the most talented players in the world.

Also – at least on this occasion – one of the least talented.

But despite my lack of skill at either sport, the lesson was a ton of fun. Osa was kind and calm, and I felt genuinely at ease on her back. And the feeling of victory any time I made contact with the ball was as exhilarating as if I’d just scored in the Argentine Open.

The author and Osa in action.


Here’s some of what I learned:

  • Squeezing the horse with your legs makes her speed up.
  • Pulling the left rein to the left side will encourage her to turn, unsurprisingly, left.
  • When you’re holding your mallet, swing your arm back like a pendulum, always keeping it straight.
  • Swing more slowly than you think, or you’ll miss the ball.
  • You’ll hurt a little the next day, but not nearly as much as you might think.

If you’re in Palm Beach over the winter, try to catch a polo match at IPC. You can get seats in the stands or, for a deluxe experience, champagne brunch on the pavilion. But if you’re there in the off-season, don’t miss the unique opportunity to take a polo lesson. Even if you’re learning two sports at once.


The International Polo Club in Palm Beach.


Where to take polo lessons:

International Polo Club Palm Beach

3667 120th Ave S

Wellington FL