Get To Know Polo Guide Nacho Echezarreta

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A polo player from the age of 10 and from a family who breed their own polo ponies, Polo Break’s Nacho Echezarreta has two years’ experience guiding polo tours and lessons, and 26 years’ experience playing polo. He can show you the ropes of the game in Argentina, home of the world’s best polo team, even if you’ve never ridden a horse or swung a mallet before.
How did you get into guiding polo tours and teaching lessons? How did you make the transition to becoming a polo guide?

Argentina is well known for tango, meat, and polo, so every time tourists visit our country, they are excited to see it. I have been playing polo since I was a kid, so often friends and visitors have asked me for lessons or just to go horse riding. Therefore, the transition was easy. I just had to make time for myself to teach others what I have learned all these years. My English partner, Charlene, pushed me to make it more professional. Press, social media, and other communication tools have helped us to reach more clients.

Is it correct that your family is very into polo as well, with your father and brother playing? Your family also breeds polo ponies in Cordoba, with your own breed of pony – what is this breed called? 

My father was born on our farm in the south of Cordoba and played polo, my mother used to jump, and my brothers play polo as well. One of my brothers is actually in the Army team; he is a first lieutenant. Yes, we play with our own horses, bred on our farm, called Mestizo.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Although it is not a full-time job (the winter season is usually quiet), when clients arrive, I simply get in touch with them, pick them up from the hotel, and start trying to get to know them. I take the lesson or guide them, after that, we chill-out, have something to drink and I take them back to the hotel.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

I first try to see what the clients are looking for with the tour or lesson. Some people just want a nice picture with the horse and wearing polo gear, others wish to improve their riding or playing skills. So I try my best to get them what they want as precisely as possible. The polo history in Argentina, for instance, might be tedious to those who are just wanting to go for a ride.

What’s the most bizarre or craziest experience you’ve had on a tour or lesson? Has anyone fallen off their horse, or hit a ball into a highway?

I actually just took a person for a ride who fell off the horse. Luckily, he was experienced and got back on the horse right away. I usually provide people with very easy-going horses so they feel confident and so they won’t fall.

Although not a bizarre experience, people often want to have champagne or a Cuban cigar after they finish their lesson as if they were playing with the Royal Family. You know, after polo, we usually drink water.

What is the best part of your job?

Getting to know other people, their life stories, and feeling that those people have had the chance to experience the passion for polo.

Polo is often associated with England and its aristocracy. Why offer it in Argentina and how popular is it?

One thing not many people know is that Argentina has the best polo team in the world, just as the US has the best basketball players. The Argentine Opens are impossible to match unless you bring Argentine players to foreign tournaments. For example, the World Polo Cup has a handicap of up to 22 goals, and the Argentine Open is up to 40 (the higher the handicap, the better the team).

It is a popular sport in Argentina, although not as much as football is. One disadvantage is that polo is usually an expensive sport, despite the fact that it is cheaper here than in other countries.

Polo Break also offers tours of polo matches and tournaments – how does having a guide help when it comes to watching a polo match? Have you ever met a polo legend on these tours?

It is very important because I can explain the rules, which are very difficult to understand. For example, every time a team scores, they switch sides with the opposing team. If you don’t know that, you can get lost.

Yes, often we introduce people to polo legends. Once, a girl begged me to find a way to take a photo with the famous polo player and top model from Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras, and I did it! He is not quite a legend yet – his handicap is 7 and legends have 9 or 10 – but he will be!

How much of a work out do you get from polo? How hard is it to hit the ball? Is it easy for beginners? 

It is good to have your body stretched; generally your back ends up in pain. You use your whole body to play polo. I usually have two kinds of people, some who know how to ride but do not play polo, and some with no experience in either. The latter are more challenging since I have to teach them both to ride and hit the ball in only a couple of hours.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

The weather. I cannot teach any lessons if it is raining or too windy. It is dangerous, and the horses get anxious. Last year it rained for a whole month and that meant no clients. We have the option of taking it indoors, but it is obviously not the same.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

A guide will always be ready to clear up any doubts and to correct lots of erroneous information that is usually provided by amateurs. For example, people get really surprised when I tell them that for every match we use from four to six horses per person. Generally, they think each player uses only one horse for the whole match.

Also polo fields (except for the Palermo polo field) are often outside the city, so you need someone to take you there.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

I consider myself a complete tour guide, not just in polo. People are surprised to find out that I know a little bit of everything from Argentina and their countries. I have a University degree and if they ask me something else about Argentina, whether about economic, political or cultural issues, I can provide answers. I want them to have not only a polo experience but also a nice image of Argentina.

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Comments

  • Carlos V
    Reply

    My polo experience with Nacho when in was in Argentina a year and a half ago was beyond my expectations. He and his brother are a must when visiting BA.

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