— Rina Shah
I've always been the sporting sort and love adventure. I played tennis and squash for fitness, trained in F1 Racing in California, and sky diving in New York! Now it's Polo!
"In 2009, I went to watch a Polo game with my close friend and had the best time. The feeling was unbelievable… super exciting and super fast... seemed very impossible to ever do it… the season lasted for a month and I went every day to watch the games. I just watched all the beautiful horses galloping and guys atop having a time of their life. Then after few months I thought of giving riding a shot... honestly I had never sat on a horse except when I was little so I did not know it was going to be fun or not… but my friend and I decided to do it together so I thought might as well give it a shot! Ha1 Ha! I have always loved horses and animals then after I become a member of the amateur riding school and started riding often since 2011 — though three falls took me a while to get back on the horse — I enrolled myself in the Santa Barbara Polo School in June for a week of training.
I was back in form after the accidents and I decided that I had to work very hard and knew I can do this if I put my heart and soul into this. So, from August 2011 I started riding each morning at 6 a.m. I did one session in the mornings and one in the evenings at 6 p.m. I started riding every day, working hard and focusing on polo riding and drills... I had decided that unless I have a disciplined lifestyle I would not be able to achieve this. My inspiration was appreciating that it is a tough game and almost impossible to start at this age and almost impossible to actually play it! I love doing things that few people can do! I love challenges and they drive me to achieve … I was the first Indian shoe designer and eleven years back I felt the same. I got an opportunity to feel the same again and I grabbed it! I wanted to give my best shot before giving it up…. so in October I decided to take a trip to Argentina, which I did for 20 days of full-on practice... day and night… it was seriously the toughest twenty days of my life as I was not ready for it. Every day I took pain killers and pushed myself till the end. I instinctively knew that if I survived this period it will take me much closer to my goal... and I did... as soon as I got back I went the same day to Jodhpur and played my first game ever: The Beginners Cup. The feeling before the game was so scary and I felt that I would not be able to do it but I had to survive the entire game to build my confidence… and I did it… it felt so good! I do not think I played my best but being on the field feeling the adrenaline rush and surviving being in the game was what I needed to do in my first game!
I would say this is the beginning of the journey. I still have a long way to go to reach my goal and this year is dedicated to traveling to Thailand, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, USA and London to travel and keep practicing. During my journey, I have been blessed to have few people who have made this happen… my close friend who took me for the first game and with whom I started riding… my mentor Suresh Tapuriah who let me ride his horses and believed I could... Swaroop, the trainer who pushed me after my third fall and without him, I would have never got rid of my fear! I travelled to Jaipur and Vicki Nihalani helped me train for Argentina... and my friends and family who had confidence I could do it.
But I did lose closeness with a lot of family and friends during this period as I had no time to see them… my social life came to a standstill as I had to wake up at 6 a.m. every day and could not go for any event. Work suffered a bit too as I had to leave the workplace by 5.30 p.m. no matter what... so I decided to start an equestrian line called Rinaldi Polo that I would sell all over the world and could combine it with my Polo travels! I just did a show in Jodhpur and sold out… Polo being an expensive hobby I thought what better then combining work and play ;-) So everywhere I am going to travel playing Polo, I will also carry my line and do a show ... super excited … my lifestyle has changed drastically and I have to maintain eating healthy as this sport demands a lot of energy and stamina… I have to frequently visit a physiotherapist almost two times a week to keep my back strong. I also feel I could have done this being single and having no responsibility as it is very demanding especially when you are training... there is lots you have to sacrifice but it was all worth it to achieve something unique and tough.
Polo has become a very important part of my life and hope it remains to be... it is a different sport in India especially when there are no women playing. It is a male dominated sport here in India so when you tell them you want to learn no one takes you seriously but you have to push your way and make it work. That said, people overall have been very supportive and helped me in someway or the other though I have to say it is easier out of India as there a lot of women playing this sport. My best experience was Argentina — for training and learning the sport and the last week of December in Jodhpur — you see great games and amazing parties all week! I also introduced my equestrian collection at Lakme Fashion Week 2011 … and since then the collection has been selling all over on the website…
I am a big believer that one can fulfil their passion at a any age… you just have to want it badly... nothing is impossible! This has opened doors to a lot of exciting things and meeting new interesting people! I am finally living my dreams!"
"Since years I have been watching basketball and American football and every time I went to see a game or was watching a game with friends we always spoke about owning a team and few of us could buy a team together — in a joke. I never had thought I would actually finally own a Polo team and become an Indian First Lady patron who plays too!
The last few years have been a very interesting journey starting from Argentina to UK to America taking all the training classes I could take to start playing Polo. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I felt frustrated many a time and questioned the ability to play and if it could ever happen ... the first tournament I played was in Jodhpur out of the hats where I won both the tournaments Umaid Bhavan Cup and Jodhpur Cup. After this I gained confidence and started planning on putting my team together and title it Rinaldi Polo. I then started talking to the players who I wanted in my team and started practicing hard for the same. My first tournament was a 4-goal tournament played in Mumbai in the first week of March. From Jan to March I went every week to Jaipur to play chukker and gain training. When March first week came closer I was very nervous and wondered if I would be able to make it... But I knew that I had to go on thinking positive and playing my best. I had India's leading players Samir Suhag and Gaurav Sahgal playing for me.. and yes we won the tournament which was amazing!! For a patron who is playing and fielding her first tournament there is no better joy. But in the last chukker just before winning the tournament I had my worst fall and fractured my thumb... but glad it is better now and so I am starting practice for my next season in September. My plan for the summer training is going to be Delhi every weekend where I have parked my horses and then USA for a month where I am planning to get some training at California Polo Club and then Long Island Polo Club.
This sport had taught me a lot discipline. It has taught me the value of hard work and patience and it's changed me as a person. I love every part of it! Every time I am on top of a horse I feel happy!! I forget every worry and pain vanishes. I am enjoying every part of the journey to become a better player. I am not hoping to be a top professional player but hoping that I enjoy every time I play and strive to play better each time and reach a good level so I can play all around the world. I am also hoping that Rinaldi Polo can play more and more tournaments.
I hope I can inspire more women to start riding and take up this sport. It's is one of the best sports ever and youngsters need to take this up at an earlier stage of their life. The friendship you create with the horse is amazing.. how the horse confides with you and vice versa. The rush I get playing Polo is not comparable to anything in the world. And I have done rifle and all kinds of gun shooting, mountain climbing, car racing, scuba diving, hiking, ATV racing ad surfing but Polo has always surprised me and given me such a rush where for the first time I am experiencing addiction. Yes I am addicted and I am loving it! I have been inspired by the sport and now I have my own line of equestrian and Polo fashion accessories. I hope to grow that line and sell all over the world. We are already selling in Germany!"