University of London

2019 SUPA Universities Summer National Championships: 7th–9th Jun by 3.1

Well. Last weekend was pretty moist.

Lost all of my chukkas in my division (well, we drew the last one, but it may as well be a loss) and got injured in my first chukka. Apart from that, I am feeling fortunate that I didn’t fall off, given the state of the pitches after Day 1.

Overall, I had a fairly fulfilling time (albeit not taking part in any of the parties that took place) and all the ponies I got to ride were very well to do with no issues.

The chukkas were held at Offchurch Bury Polo Club and our horses were hired from Silver Leys Polo Club.

Day 1 – Winchester and Warwick

Not the best chukkas, with me struggling to see for a lot of it with the heavy rain and my glasses steaming up. Winchester was pretty mediocre, with the rain at its heaviest on that Friday morning. It is in this game I took a rough hooking from another player who sought to disrupt my full swing by throwing everything and the kitchen sink it.

Warwick came in the afternoon. We were expecting dirty tactics from Warwick, as they are notorious for foul play, and we were not surprised when said play emerged. Ultimately, their player at the back was very strong and we were marked aggressively which permitted him to progress, with little room or time for breakaways.

I managed to get a few touches on the ball, but nothing spectacular as my wrist was killing me by this point. A few awkward backhands and changes of direction on the ball, but not much else in the way of defensive play.

All in all, a bit of a hash.

Day 2 – Rest

I went back to London for the day once the order of play was updated as no chukkas were listed for my team. My accommodation, a lovely B&B in Leamington Spa, was conveniently situated within walking distance of the railway station, so it was quite easy for me to get home. That said, I felt pangs of disappointment when I realised that I had to leave to go back up towards Warwickshire…

Day 3 – Harper Adams and Stirling

The rain tried to come and go again, with a downpour occurring at some point in the afternoon (thankfully, well after all my chukkas were played). In the Harper Adams chukka, I had the pleasure of riding a pony called Tango, which was one of the biggest on the field and required me to play with a 53” mallet.

Stirling was a fun game, having played this particular team and line-up before back in February. I managed to breakaway towards goal, where I would’ve been able to put one away, had it not been for an illegitmate ride off. A 30 yard penalty was awarded to us however, where my teammate Yong was able to score.

Interestingly, I played without a numnah (saddle blanket), as Esperanza apparently had a weird back/spine. She did have a gel pad under my saddle for extra grip, but essentially her girth was done up as tight as it would go and I was simply warned about ensuring I was well-balanced throughout.

Anyway – that’s that for this year! Everything else that happens now will simply be club or local tournaments and next year I get to move up to play in the novice division for SUPA nationals. Whether or not I’ll still be UoLPC I don’t know, but we’ll see.

All chukka coverage photos are courtesy of the amazing Emmpix Photography:

Silver Leys by 3.1

Late afternoon sun and skies over the beautiful Silver Leys Polo Club

Life continues to move fairly quickly and I continue to juggle full-time work with university life. Thankfully, I don’t have time to whinge and moan about it like some of the creeps (still) out there. With a little over a week to go, the SUPA Summer National Championships are drawing near and no less than 10 teams have been entered in the division that I am competing in.

I’m slightly concerned that Cambridge have not entered any teams onto the provision list yet, but my primary concern is Warwick at the moment as they were our biggest competitors. There has been a change to our line up too as Louis has defected to the Novice division; I’m still playing with fellow teammate Yong, but we are now joined by Alice, who normally trains with us anyway.

Meanwhile, the University of London Polo Club has made the move over to our summer training ground at Silver Leys Polo Club and most of us have been there to train at least twice now. Whilst it’s a nice ground, it’s in the middle of bloody nowhere in a place called Little Hadham. The nearest railway station is Bishop’s Stortford which is about a 10-minute drive away, whilst the nearest Tube station is Epping is 30-minutes away. The other week, we all had the misfortune of the railway lines to and from Hertford and Cambridge to Liverpool Street being shut for about 6 hours, with no taxis or minicabs willing to come down to Little Hadham as a result of the railway lines being shut and trade being more along the route of the trains. In the end, it took me no less than 4 hours to get back to Maidenhead (it would’ve taken me the same amount of time to get back home to Brentford, so I decided to go where I knew there was going to be a hot dinner waiting for me).

Last week wasn’t so bad, but it still took just over 2 hours to get home from there. There’s nothing worse than dragging polo kit down with me onto the Tube, but it had to be done. Polo in time for sunset was a pretty amazing experience.

Trying to form “a train”, marking your opposition and heading towards goal

The group was a little too big for my liking, and Alec (the guy that runs Silver Leys) wasn’t mounted as they’d “run out of ponies” (they’d had a tryout session for the local kids which meant that a lot of the ponies had been spent), so it was a bit like organised chaos to be honest once we decided to play a few chukkas as we were playing on a full-sized pitch (no less than 300 yards in length). That said, the ponies here are wonderful and so far I haven’t had any issues with the ones I’ve been allocated; last week, I didn’t even need to use a whip!

Enjoying some of the sunshine…!

This was also the first time I thought I’d try out my old GoPro HERO5 on my polo helmet, so I got a few good photos and a bit of video. In formal chukkas, such as SUPA, you’re not allowed to use any form of video recording, but Alec was happy for me to record our entire lesson. Unfortunately, the nature of moving your head a lot and movements on horseback does a lot to the stability of camera footage, never mind the sound!

The chase for the Right of Way along the Line of the Ball

The rest of the week looks set to have polo dotted all over it, so pay day can’t come soon enough! It has spurred me on with eBaying things I don’t need and getting rid of lots of other stuff at the charity shops however. I was supposed to play over the Bank Holiday weekend, but it didn’t happen in the end. That said, I’ve got my very first club chukkas at White Waltham tomorrow evening; I’m supposed to be playing four(!) chukkas, after which I will be awarded my provisional handicap for the rest of the season. Saturday sees me back at the Berkshire after one of my Japanese exams for a long-overdue season of “chillout” chukkas, so I’m looking forward to go back there again and seeing Phil and the Cool Hooves gang as we haven’t been back there since 1st May, but that already seems like years ago. I do miss training there.

A lovely and relaxed hack as the sun sets whilst Anita and me head back to the pony lines 😍

I’ll probably look to trade in my old GoPro and upgrade to the GoPro HERO7 Black sometime this season, but in the meantime, I’ve attached a few clips of me doing a bit of stick and ball, as well as the last few moments of our final chukka of that evening.

And yes – it’s fucking difficult trying to hit a ball (only slightly bigger than a cricket ball) when you’re galloping around on a horse.