Polo is a very physically demanding, high-contact sport, yet the percentage of women athletes is at an all time high and growing. As more female players raise their game to establish successful careers in polo, their dedication has inspired a wave of others to join them on the field and challenge the image of this historically male-dominated sport.
Part of transforming this imagery of polo is through the emergence of skilled, competitive female players who perform targeted conditioning on and off their horses. Alejandro Moraes, a fitness and polo trainer who focuses on equestrian clientele, believes performance is more about achieving flexibility of the muscles rather than strength. He has participated in USPA clinics and most recently traveled to train with Annabelle Gundlach’s Postage Stamp Farm during the 2017 East Coast Open at Greenwich Polo Club.
We asked some of the current standout female athletes shaping the game of polo about what they do (and what you can do) to stay fit for the field, even when there isn’t a polo pony in sight.
1. Annabelle Gundlach (A) – Patron of Postage Stamp Farm polo team
During a morning personal training session at the International Polo Club, Moraes specifically focused on rotational exercises and stretching with Gundlach to increase her flexibility. She emphasized that women often have to be more technically precise as players to compete with the upper body strength of their male counterparts. Coming from a hunter/jumper background in which frame and leg contact is essential, Gundlach focuses on exercises which develop the areas necessary for a professional polo athlete.
2. Pamela Flanagan (3) – Brand ambassador for Hawaii Polo Life and U.S. Polo Assn.
Developing core strength
- Stabilizing exercises such as planks with an 8lb weight
Developing upper body strength
- Grip exercises
Improving hand/eye coordination
- Tennis ball drills
- Balance board exercises
3. Rebekah Pizana (A) – Trains with NASM personal trainer, Cristina Parr, and creator of the Equestribar
Developing core strength
- Plank walk – Start in a plank position, resting on your forearms with your body forming a straight line. Then push up from the ground, one arm at a time, into the elevated press-up position.
- Medicine ball chop – Stand tall and hold medicine ball at chest height. Squat down with your chest up and bring the ball to the outside of one knee. Stand and twist your torso as far as possible bringing the ball up above your opposite shoulder.
- Pallof press – Connect a cable to a tower. From the side of the cable grab its handle and hold it to the middle of your chest. Press the cable away from your chest with both arms extended. Hold for several seconds before returning to the middle of your chest.
- Battle ropes
- Bosu ball squats with resistance bands – Stand on the flat side of the ball with your chest up and head looking forward. Flex the knees and hips to lower your body.
- Romanian dead lifts – Hold the bar at hip level with shoulders back, back arched, and knees bent. Lower the bar by moving your butt back as far as you can while keeping your head forward.
- Stability ball leg curl – Lay on the floor with your legs on top of the ball. Raise your hips off the ground, keeping weight on shoulders and feet. Flex the knees, pulling the ball close to you.
- TRX chest stretch – Come inside the TRX and hold the handles loosely. Slowly walk yourself forward until you feel a stretch across your chest. Keep your arms up and at shoulder height.
4. Nina Clarkin (10) – Top British female polo player
- Circuit workouts with personal trainer
5. Gillian Johnston (6) – Patron of Coca-Cola polo team
- Consistently riding and playing polo daily
- Walking or riding the bike during off season
Alejandro Moraes is based in Wellington, Florida, but has traveled internationally with clients and trained many professionals including Nicolas Roldan and Jeff Blake. Although originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, Moraes grew up in Argentina and has worked with prominent polo teams such as Orchard Hill, as well as dressage and jumper clients. For more information on his services visit www.polofitness.com or for inquires email email@example.com.