As part of the blog tour for Seven and a Half Minutes by Roxana Valea, today I have the privilege of sharing an extract of the book with you. Many thanks to Roxana for allowing me to share this, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
Before Roxy found herself “Single in Buenos Aires,” she was a single girl in London in search of true love. The third installment of The Polo Diaries series takes us back to that time, and we follow Roxy as she hires a love coach to help her navigate the dating scene. But the love coach comes up with an unexpected assignment: reconnect to a long-forgotten passion. For Roxy this means horses. Within weeks, she finds herself playing polo, thanks to a series of unforeseen events.
Torn between her desire to become the best polo player she can be and the dream of falling in love, Roxy steps fully into the exciting and demanding world of polo, where injury and recovery mix with hard training, and where celebrating the victory of a tournament comes at a high price. Will Roxy eventually become the polo player she dreams to be? And with polo being such a demanding sport, can there be any space left for love?
Context: Polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina and makes her first contact with a different type of polo…
Dale, Dale, vamos!” I tell him I’m Roxy, but Monica seems to please him more, so I settle on being Monica for now. He rides behind me, and I get my horse into a canter again. The ball is in front of me: head over the ball, lean out, swing, hit. Again… again… again…
My back is arched, my body is crying out, every little bone in my back is sore, but he rides behind me and passes over every single ball I miss, and I have to carry on. Strangely enough, I don’t miss that many balls these days; it’s as if my polo has got better overnight simply because I’ve landed in the country of polo—Argentina.
I ride in the morning until I’m close to exhaustion and my horse simply refuses to go for another run. I ride until I feel he’s about to buck me off, and then, grateful that it’s over, I turn and walk him slowly to the stables, wondering if my knees will give in once I jump off. I ride in the afternoons with them, the Argentine polo players, who ride like they were born on horses. They ride with no hard hats, no knee or elbow pads. They ride in jeans and T-shirts with their hair flowing freely in the wind, and I smile and realize how ridiculous we look with all our protective equipment and hard hats. I ride alongside them, wishing my hair were free in the wind…
“Dale, Monica! Put your boobs out and your bum out as well, like this.” He arches his back in the perfect pose of a polo player in full swing—or a pole dancer, same thing really. “You see, like this, boobs out!” I smile at his directness. This would have been a bit too explicit for an English coach, but here it seems perfectly acceptable. I try to imagine myself pole dancing. I swing and hit, a plain, clean hit, and the ball goes halfway across the field. “You see?” He smiles. “Boobs out and the ball goes far!” I now think of pole dancing every time I hit, but it’s a really difficult thing: my arched back makes my muscles hurt even more. “I know, I know.” His smile is kind. “I know, more difficult, but better hit.” And I get it suddenly: the pain is there, but the trick is to allow it to be there, and arch your back despite the pain, and hit, again… again… again…
I play with them again in the afternoon. I play as number one (weakest position), and I’m told to mark the number four (strongest position) from the opposite team, and I can’t even get close to him. The only time I try to hook him, I miss, and I’m grateful that I missed, since his swing is so powerful I would most probably have been thrown out of the saddle. I ride close to him, and then I feel he’s about to ride me off, and this would be the end of me and my horse as well, but he knows better. He comes close and shouts “Taco, taco!” just to frighten me, and then, in full gallop, he grabs the ears of my horse and laughs, galloping away. He doesn’t need to ride me off; I get the message totally and fully. It’s his ball, and I graciously move out of his way.
I ride with them every day, and every time I get off my horse, my body aches and refuses to think about ever getting back on a horse. I crawl into bed for the noon siesta, and I promise myself that I’ll not get on a horse again that day. But the afternoon comes, and we’re due to play. It’s a four-chukka game, and by chukka two, I almost cry out in pain. I’m out of breath, and I feel like bailing out, but then I remember I’ll miss the handshakes at the end if I do, and this thought keeps me going. And I move on, with him riding behind me shouting “Dale, Monica!”, with the smiley guy I’m supposed to mark far in the distance. I ride in the late afternoon sun with the smell of freshly cut grass in my nostrils. I ride despite the pain in my body and despite the weakness in my knees. I ride, and I don’t think of anything but the ball, the horse, the fact that the game appears to be turning, and I need to change direction. I ride, not knowing sometimes which way we are supposed to go and whether that was a real goal or not, but I ride on. I ride with them, and their joy of riding spreads to me, and for a few moments I feel there’s nothing else to life but riding…
By the third chukka, I’m given a very narrow horse with a shiny leather saddle. My legs are almost giving in by this time, and I cringe when I think I’ll probably end up on the horse’s neck. I’m too tired to keep myself stable on a shiny leather saddle. But he’s there and reads my thoughts: He asks me if I want some water. Water? No. Another horse maybe. But he smiles, takes a bottle of water, pours it all over my saddle, and tells me to rub my trousers against it. Now I look like I’ve been peeing in my trousers, or even worse, because the brown color of the saddle comes out on my white jeans. But it’s okay actually, because now the wet leather grips like never before, and I smile, really grateful for this trick, and I know I’ll be safe for another chukka. “Dale, Monica.” The chukka has started without a whistle, without a lineup, and without notice, flowing on as naturally as everything these people do on their horses. I run out, mad, in full gallop across the field. I run flat out, and smile when I feel the solid grip of my wet leather saddle, and I know I’ll now be able to stay safely on this horse.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.
As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate Word is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband between England and Spain, and splits her time between writing, coaching and therapy work, but her first passion remains writing.
Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour.