I’ve been in Australia for almost a month now, which feels a little crazy… time goes fast.
After spending two days in Sydney when I first arrived, I took a train and headed four hours north. I went right into the heart of horse country, where I had a job already lined up as a polo groom!
Polo is kind of like hockey on horseback. Four players on a team chase a small ball around the field and hit it with their sticks, all while riding. The horses have to be fast, extremely fit, and able to turn on a dime.
As a polo groom, I’m responsible for a string of nine horses. Basically I see to all of their daily needs, everything from feeding and cleaning stalls to exercising the horses. Polo horses are exercised in “sets”, where you ride one and lead several others. The really experienced grooms can ride one and lead four or even more. So far I can ride one and lead three (but only if the three are all behaving themselves!). I’ve been riding horses for several years but I’ve never worked in polo or even seen a game – so there’s been a lot for me to learn!
The stables. On the left you can see the stalls, all completely open to the air around (unlike home, where stalls are typically indoors and much more covered):
I spend about three hours a day riding, which I love, and the job is pretty relaxed so far. Once tournaments begin I’m told that it’ll be a bit more full-on. I get to travel with the horses to Sydney, Melbourne, and a couple other places, which I’m very excited about!
In the meantime, the property I’m on is gorgeous – lots of rolling hills and right now, lots of green!
Sunset over the polo fields on one of my first nights here:
When I first arrived, the area had been in a 3-year drought; since arriving they’ve had about two weeks of heavy rains that everyone is very happy about (well, almost everyone… 😒).
The property is about an hour from the nearest town, so it’s a trek to get groceries, but it’s also very peaceful. There’s about two hundred people that live here full time, most of them working with the horses (there’s a couple hundred horses on site, maybe more). There’s also a golf course, shop, restaurant, clubhouse, pool, gym, and cinema, all open and free for employees to use. Not a bad place to be at all!
It’s not a very typical backpacker experience so far, but I’m really enjoying my stay. Aside from one French person and one Brit, I’m the only non-Australian around. I’m not near the ocean or any beaches.
I do see kangaroos and joeys hopping around almost every day. I’ve also seen heaps of turtles, a lizard that was three feet long and in a tree, a fascinating little creature called an “echidna” (like a hedgehog, but with a long snout), and a beautiful array of birds (including many brightly coloured, wild parrots!).
I’ve seen just one snake so far, out in one of the horse paddocks. I kept far away, took note of its colour, and afterwards asked somebody if that type of snake could kill me. They replied: “Nah. Maybe if you were really small, like eight years old or something. But you’d be fine.”
What I’m learning about Australians is that if something can’t kill you, they don’t really consider it dangerous. I think for now, I’ll just watch my step.
Stayed tuned for my coming adventures as I tackle learning the many rules of polo, something called “chukkhas”, and my travel with the team!