While up in the mountains last weekend Jeanne and I came across a horse show in Breil sur Roya.
We stopped to watch an exciting game of "horse ball" which is a combination of polo, rugby and basketball with goals on each side and a large basket to throw the ball through. Below is the 6 handled ball which is tossed back and forth.
It is the same game as that of "pato" that originated in 1700 in Argentina but was played with a live duck instead of a ball. They stopped playing in 1790 because of the high mortality rate among the players ( and presumably the ducks). By 1953, however, after regulations put in place over the years, it had gained status as Argentina's national game.
Here is what it looks like to pick up the ball "ramassage" which keeps happening after every play.
When the ball is dropped or falls on the ground, anyone can pick it up so long as they are going in the same way as the game was going when the ball was dropped. This is to avoid any riders coming head on whilst someone is picking up, as the player picking up would have a head on collision.
The first rule for pick up is the horse has to be galloping (or at a trot with this small field and less experienced riders) when picking up the ball. Stopping is forbidden as it may injure the horse's back (and usually means that the player has less of a swing to pull himself back up). This can result in a fall due to losing a stirrup also.
You would have to have steel thighs to hold onto the horse when you are handling the ball as your hands often leave the reins. It's pretty exciting to watch and requires good horsemanship.
I found out that the teams we saw play were from Mouans Sartoux and Mougins but there are teams all over the Cote d'Azur.
|Notice the net and hoop at the left side of the photo. That is the goal.|
Here's our little champion player again. We were told that that the women's team only had one season of experience and the men were a more experienced team. But hey, the girls were kicking their collective "derrieres", it looked to me.