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Byline: aya lowes

Half polo, half lacrosse (played using a small solid rubber ball and a long-handled racquet), polocrosse is one of the latest sports to hit Dubai, gaining a number of fans. What is best described by Philippa Barlow, Manager of Al Awadi Stables, as the poor man's polo, polocrosse prides itself on being the less serious, more economical cousin to polo.

The unusual sport amalgamation began as a form of horse training in England. A group of Australian riders soon realised the fun that's possible from its fast-paced nature and turned it into an official sport. Since its conception in 1939, the game has spread to 14 nations.

As the newest member of the worldwide Polocrosse Association, the UAE is moving towards making the sport popular here.

Polocrosse training began two years ago under the guidance of Barlow and Zimbabwean trainer Andy Taylor. Every Friday, families and avid horse riders take the hour-and-a-half journey to the Al Awadi stables in Al Dhaid desert to take part in a polocrosse game.

Headed by chief umpire Peter Burg and Taylor, the budding team comprises 12 members. With a new season due to begin after Eid, Taylor hopes to take the sport to the next level. "We've the Euro Cup in 2011 and are hoping to train a team." Polocrosse UAE's recent partnership with the International Polocrosse Association has meant that this may soon be a reality. With the sport's increasing popularity, more clubs including Arabian Ranches, Dhabian Equestrian Club and the upcoming Escape in Ajman are evincing interest in joining Polocrosse UAE .

From initially turning her nose up at the game, Barlow u whose horsemanship background comprises international show-jumping and training u describes herself as aehooked' after her first few games. "While polo is a very elitist sport and can cost quite a bit of money, polocrosse is cheap, a lot more fun and can be enjoyed by all ages."

safe and easy

A family-oriented event, the weekly training sessions are split into two halves starting with the beginners who sweat it out in the enclosed school. The second half of the evening then sees the pros take on the desert. The evening winds down with a barbecue.

For those not wanting to make the long journey back, there's the option of camping on the grounds.

"It's a lot of fun. First there's the beginners' match where parents scream from the sides, egging their children on. Then we all shift onto the big field for the intermediate match, which is a lot faster and has more action," Barlow says.

Equipment comprises a modified lacrosse stick and a sponge rubber ball. While the pace is the same as polo, the riding is confined to a field two-thirds its size. The aim is to get the ball out of the other person's net and score a goal. With more focus on contact and taking possession of the ball, polocrosse has often been referred to as rugby on horseback.

Barlow says, "You don't need to be a good horse rider. You just need to know the basics and the rest you'll learn on the field."

As hectic as the sport may seem, injuries are minimal. "If you fall off your horse, you have to pay a Dh50 fine. The money goes towards an end-of-year party. Fortunately for the players and unfortunately for the party, only a few have had to pay up, me being one of them," Barlow added.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 26, 2009
Words:592
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