How a wonderful idea became a vision, why such a thing actually is only possible in Argentina and what the new plans of La Tarde Polo Club are about – POLO+10 has met Juan Martin Sarli and spoke with him about the beginnings, good polo training and the particular Argentinean polo feeling.
Juan Martin Sarli, La Tarde Polo Club was one of the first clubs in the province of Buenos Aires to offer polo holidays, including accommodation and polo training. How did the idea arise back then and how did La Tarde develop since that time?
30 years ago my father started the breeding programme. When you breed polo ponies, you also have to train them and let them gather experience in polo. This is why we founded La Tarde Polo Club in 2001. At the beginning it was mostly locals who came to the tournaments. In 2006 La Tarde became what it is today: a polo club, which also offers polo holidays including a polo school.
Since many years I also regularly play in Europe. Again and again friends from there asked me if they could visit me in Argentina for training. When I suggested the idea to build up the polo club into a holiday destination to my parents, they were thrilled immediately. And this is how a wonderful idea became a vision. Today we have about 120 horses and three pitches. From this year on we also have an arena so that we can play in all weathers.
Long since other clubs around Buenos Aires also have discovered the potential of polo tourism. What makes polo holidays at La Tarde such a special experience?
La Tarde is not only a polo club, but also a family business. We see our guests as part of the family and integrate them 100 % into the Sarli family. We treat each guest individually and anticipate his wishes. Everyone receives a training, which is individualized by our three polo pros. This way each guest has the opportunity to build on his strengths and work on his weaknesses. Our slogan “As much polo as you can take” is not only a saying, we live for this slogan.
“As much polo as you can take” – what does this motto look like in practice?
Each morning begins with two hours of stick & ball, during which the guests train with the three pros, followed by a discussion of the rules and tactics of polo. Each guest plays two horses. In the afternoon, following a collective lunch, four to six chukkas are played with the Argentinean club members and professional players. In our new arena the guests can also play in any wind and weather. In addition, we offer training on a wooden horse, discussions of tactics before and after the chukkas as well as schoolings, which deal with the rules and a general understanding of the sport of polo. Our polo training does not stop until the guests are not able to sit in the saddle anymore.
Our motto is training, training, training. This also is the background of our slogan “As much polo you can take”. Due to the intensive polo training our guests improve definitely. Each guest can expect to leave La Tarde with more technique skills and an improved playing style.
You are one of the three coaches at La Tarde. What does a good polo training look like and to what do you attach the most importance?
A good polo training means that you know what you have to train. Each guest has different strengths and weaknesses. During the first stick & ball sessions and chukkas we examine these closely and create an individualized training schedule. It is our goal to give the guests the opportunity to improve their playing style. And to make them feel comfortable. This is why we choose the horses for the guests very carefully and take care that horse and player are compatible with each other, which is a simple task for us: As most of our polo ponies have been born at our place, we know each horse very well.
For analysing the matches you also use drones – a technology which is not yet common in the sport of polo. Which kind of experiences do you have with this so far?
The advantage of this analysis is that you can see very clearly the position of each player on the recordings. This helps the player to analyse his position during the match and to understand and improve it. Our past experiences with the drones are very good. At the beginning the horses had to get used to it, but now they are not scared anymore. The guests are always very thrilled by the recordings. It is not only great fun to watch the match again, but it also helps very much to better understand the game.
You are an enthusiastic polo player yourself. What means polo to you?
Polo is my life! The first time I sat on a polo pony I knew: This is my passion. Polo means to me: adrenaline, speed, teamwork, and fun. My job is my absolute dream. Polo is not only a sport for me, but also my lifestyle.
Collective lunch, drinking mate with each other after playing polo, sitting together at an asado in the evening – at La Tarde everyone is a big polo family. What is special about this atmosphere?
It is very important to us to make the guests feel at home at our club. At La Tarde we create a special atmosphere by doing all activities collectively, from playing polo to collective meals to collective excursions. Our guests do not only form livelong friendships with the family and other guests here, they get another family. In summer, when I play in Europe, I always try to visit all the new and old friends I became acquainted with during the season. Most of our guests have started to become regular guests or rather good friends, who always like to return, because to them it feels like coming back to a second home.
Argentina and especially the province of Buenos Aires are THE number one polo hotspot in the world. La Tarde Polo Club is located one hour away from Buenos Aires and half an hour from Pilar, right in the middle of the Argentinean polo mecca. What is special about the Argentinean polo feeling and in which way do the guests benefit from it?
The Argentinean polo feeling is incomparable. Here in Argentina is the home of polo. Here we have the most space for the best pitches – especially in the province of Buenos Aires the land is very flat, which is why the region is called La Pampa. On top of this we have the best polo ponies here. Polo is a very present sport in Argentina.
The guests who come to Argentina to play polo do not only benefit from the best pitches and ponies, but also from the frequent tournaments. We frequently organise many tournaments for all ages and polo levels, so that our guests can gather as much tournament experience as possible. In addition, they can play here as much polo as they want to, not like in Europe, where each chukka is charged separately. It is important to us that each guest improves his playing style. This is why we train until each guest is satisfied with his or her performance. Such a thing is actually only possible in Argentina.
In addition to being one of the coaches you also work as a horse breeder, veterinarian and general manager at La Tarde – a lot of work. What motivates you and what do you love the most about your work?
It is a wonderful way of living. For me it is not really a job, it is more like a hobby. I love what I’m doing. It is not hard for me to get up each morning. I know what to expect and each morning I look forward to the upcoming day once more. It is fantastic to have the chance to live your dream. I have been given this chance.
Which plans do you have for the future of La Tarde Polo Club? Which highlights can your guests expect at La Tarde in 2015?
In the future we want to establish a La Tarde Polo Club in Europe. From then on we can offer polo holidays throughout the year: during the European summer at La Tarde in Europe and during the Argentinean summer at La Tarde in Argentina. This is a very exciting project and I’m really looking forward to it.
From this year on there will be even more tournaments at La Tarde and thanks to the arena even more polo training. On top of this we continue to develop our breeding programme. We add further bloodlines to our breeding programme to offer our guests a broader choice for their perfect polo pony.
Currently we extend the polo club. We build new pitches and want to enlarge the facilities. We need more space: due to the growing breeding programme and because we want to have more pitches. The new arena was only the beginning – now we are really starting.
About La Tarde Polo Club
The La Tarde Polo Club is located about one hour from Buenos Aires and 30 minutes from Pilar. The estate covers 180 hectares and includes three first class polo fields, 120 polo ponies, 60 horseboxes and two Sticking Cages. In addition the club offers its guests a luxury clubhouse, 12 private cottages, two swimming pools, sauna, gym and spa as well as a bar and a gift shop.
Originally the Sarli family comes from Buenos Aires, where they ran several super markets and travel agencies. Even back then Alfredo, passionate about polo and horses, bred polo ponies and searched for a place to train them. Then he found the former cattle ranch including a restaurant at the gates of Buenos Aires and in 1991 decided to use this place to build the La Tarde Polo Club. Ten years ago his son Juan Martin extended the club to a holiday accommodation – being the first one to offer polo holidays for tourists in the region of Buenos Aires.
The name “La Tarde” in Spanish means sunset and afternoon. The club is called like this because it offers a fantastic view of the sunset. The clubhouse has been built so that the guests can sit there in the evening and enjoy the panoramic view of the landscape and the sunset of Argentina.
For more information please visit www.latardepolo.com