The A Team
Franco's head was bobbing to the music he had plugged into his ears when I asked him for an interview. "Qué?" he queried. I explained I wanted to ask him some questions about his life and work at Polo Club Bern. "Ah si, si", but could I please just wait until he'd finished the stables. So I went outside and sat in the shade and waited...and waited. It had been the same trying to talk to Pablo and would prove even harder to catch Miriam.
Miriam, Franco and Pablo - the A Team at Polo Bern. When you're running a polo club and stable yard good staff dynamics are imperative, and this season Christopher Kiesel, polo manager and trainer at Polo Bern, has been dealt a great hand. Three young people who provide the dedication, experience and loyalty required. And yet with their very different personalities, backgrounds and nationalities this would not have been a foregone conclusion. Miriam is German, Pablo German-Guatemalan and Franco Italian-Argentinian. The stable language is English with smatterings of Spanish, German and Schweitzerdeutsch. A mini-United Nations - so how did they blend together?
Well, it seems they all have the same mind-set, putting care of the horses in their charge first, relying on each other to put in the necessary hours. As Pablo says, "It's 24/7", but there's plenty of laughter and they especially like to learn from one another. Miriam comes from the world of horse jumping and has travelled all over Europe, the United States and Middle East bringing a wealth of knowledge with her to Bern. Her male colleagues appreciate and benefit from this but she, in turn, learns about polo from them.
My question about a favourite pony in the stable set all three thinking. They love them all of their charges but maybe Pablo has a soft spot for the beautiful Minette, the perfect example of a TB polo pony, and Franco's eyes shone as he spoke of Mueli who learns so quickly. Miriam likes working with the ponies that are a bit "special" - the problem cases. She tells me they usually just lack confidence and if you treat them fairly, calmly and keep them mentally occupied they respond by behaving well.
How did these three get into this polo world? The race horse owning grandfather put Franco on a horse at three years of age, and at eight his friend introduced him to polo...and now he's hooked for life! For Pablo, it was his mother, taking lessons at Win Polo School in Hamburg, who got him into polo. And, it was in Hamburg that he met Chris whom he tells me has been a very influential figure for him. Miriam was looking for change and saw the position advertised on the internet. Bern and Switzerland sounded good, so she took the plunge.
Home Away From Home
What's it like working in Switzerland? "Scary", says Pablo. "I love the job but life is so expensive". Franco agrees with this but loves the neatness and order of the place which surprised me a bit given his effervescent personality. "The people are very friendly", Miriam tells me and she never tires of looking at those fabulous mountains during gallop rounds in the arena. I was winding up this question when Franco suddenly exclaimed "Wait, wait! Can I say what I don't like?", I hesitated. After all this was to be a positive blog. But he was going to tell me anyway. "So what is it, Franco?", "The FLIES," he hissed. Ah yes, I agreed, very nasty.
The season start had been difficult for most polo clubs with Covid 19 and lockdown.But Miriam had worked the winter at Polo Club Bern and Franco had arrived in February before lockdown was declared. For Pablo, studying Agricultural Economics, his practical experience in Canada was cancelled. Disappointing for Pablo but a win for Polo Bern. This meant that the three were able to start training and conditioning the ponies from the end of February on. A great plus for the horse owners to have their ponies fit and ready as soon as stick and ball and socially distanced chukkers were permitted. Polo Bern was fortunate.
Wrapping it up
To my usual question regarding future plans Miriam pauses. "I don't really have any," she says. "It's 90% job and 10% dog. This is not a 9 to 5 situation. Things have to be done and we do them any time of day or night. But I like it here. I feel like the horse Mum."
Franco is concerned about the situation in Argentina and is hoping his future will include Polo Bern.
A big farm in northern Germany awaits Pablo so that he can continue with his practical experience and studies, and, hopefully be able to travel again to Guatemala, his mother's homeland.
I wanted to wrap up this interview with a group photo, but with all three beavering about in the stables, this proved to be a mission. After waiting about an hour Chris finally helped me out by shouting down the stable corridor: "Group photo, NOW!"
I got my photo. I had my interview. All that's left is to give big thanks and best wishes to The A Team.