Back in July 2016 I took part in a charity polo match for The Inspire Foundation and it was quite frankly a bl**dy brilliant day from start to finish!
If you’re wondering why it has taken me so long to blog about it, it’s because I forgot to click “publish” (serious blonde moment!!!) Bad blogger! Slap on wrist!
So the day started with us poling up to pitch our gazebo and complete the most essential activity of the day getting the picnic ready and champers on ice! I was repping for the eventers in my carefully chosen hosiery!;)
I met up with the charity’s representative and was introduced to the rest of the eventer’s team and we eyed up our opponents, the jockeys!!!! dun dun duuunnnn! There was a little gamesmanship going on as the two teams gave the bikes on offer for the ‘bike polo’ part of the day a good looking over, and we may (or may not) have chosen what we believed to be ‘the best ones’ and hidden them for exclusive eventer team use later on in the day 😉 Our team was made up of proper professional eventers….and myself! Rob Stevens, Constantin Van Rijckevorsel and his wife Theresa. Each team then also had a guest polo player necessary to raise the skill level and make sure that the play of the match kept moving and didn’t just turn into a grass whacking competition! The match was just 2 chukkas and I played in the first one and then swapped with Theresa for the second one as the pro polo player stayed on to keep things moving. Unfortunately a combination of tenacity, cheating (and I’m convinced having faster horses) meant that the jockeys won the match. Boooooooooo! In my chukka I managed a couple of cracking back hands even if I do say so myself (obviously I included these in the video. My moment of glory!) a little riding off, and a lot of generally swinging my mallet in the vague direction of the ball. It’s amazing how the pressure of competition can affect your play, and from hitting a good clean ball a few weeks back at Cirencester I reverted more than once to my old bad habit of becoming tense and skimming the top of the ball with my forehand shots…aaarrrgggghhh so frustrating!
Trying to chase down #maxlopez not an easy task! #polo #rundlecup #blogger #horse #equestrian #charitymatch #eventersvsjockeys #horsesofinstagram #poloyolo #polopony #tottie A post shared by Gift Horse Eventing (@gifthorseeventing) on
Off the horses and back out on the pitch with the pedal power for the bicycle polo chukka. Let me tell you cycling and hitting a ball, fending off a jockey, trying to score a goal, and not hit anyone in the head with your mallet is harder than it looks, and exhausting (mainly because I was laughing so much when Rob Stevens’ bike lost a pedal in a collision and he had to spend the rest of the match trying to scoot round on one leg!) I can’t remember the score it was all a bit of a blur because we then had to swap our 2 wheels for 4 and take part in the wheelchair relay race. This is a sports day-esque sprint up and down a chalk painted race track in front of the stadium where we were joined by a team from Inspire. I think the eventers came 2nd in this and so our hopes were high to pull back a draw with the final event the flat out dash! When I knew that this was part of the events and 1 rider from each team (polo, eventer, jockey) could take part my hand shot up into the air. The chance to race across the polo pitch and back as fast as possible in a good old fashion ‘ on your marks, get set, go’ style was one I definitely wanted to take. There was a little barracking at the start as one of the other competitors (mentioning no names, eh hem the polo player!) was trying to surreptitiously carry a whip, but the remaining team members on the ground soon spotted it and it was duly confiscated 😉 The race consisted of myself, a jockey, and a polo player galloping as fast as possible diagonally across the pitch, round a cone and back through the finishing goal posts. My little mare was not particularly hyped by the prospect of a sprint unlike the polo player’s horse who clearly had the right idea in mind and shot off the start line like a rocket. With all my effort I tried to get my mare going as fast as possible, pony club kicks galore but we were about 3 horse’s lengths off the 2 in front as we approached the turning cone. I knew my mare might not have speed but I had been told she had amazing turning skills and so I took a really tight line, hugged the cone and for a second I had undertaken them and was in the lead! This was it I thought! We’re in with a chance but before I could finish my thought Vvvvvrrrrrooooommmmmm the polo player and jockey had caught up from their overshot corner and were streaking past me!
The Rundle Cup 2x furlong dash. Eventer takes on jockey and polo player in a race!. Who do you think won?! Credit: Royal Navy MOD Rob Harding #blogger #horse #equestrian #polo #rundlecup #pimms #equestrian #horse #horses #polopony #horsestagram #horsesofinstagram #champagne #dutchcourage A post shared by Gift Horse Eventing (@gifthorseeventing) on
I kicked and flapped and cheered her on and rode like her tail was on fire but we just couldn’t catch them. Despite being called Ducatti my mount was not built for speed 😉 It was thrilling though and it’s definitely up there with some of the most fun you can have on horseback. I think this picture says it all.
By the final prize giving I was exhausted, red faced, sweaty and unaware that my gopro had run out of battery 30 minutes earlier otherwise I could have taken my hat off! (ideal pre-prize giving photo conditions!). We lined up to be presented with our runners up prizes (those blasted jockeys won after all!) and we were given 2x lovely goody bags filled with champers, picnic items, and cosmetics from the two team sponsors Quilter Cheviot and Baylis and Harding.
Prize giving at #therundlecup gopro still in place and filming….or so I thought! #batterydied #equestrian #blogger #polo #rundlecup #pimms #horsesofinstagram #horse #chukka #quiltercheviot #baylisandharding #tidworthpolo A post shared by Gift Horse Eventing (@gifthorseeventing) on
Post match goodie bags! Commemorative champagne is a dream! #polo #rundlecup #blogger #horse #equestrian #champagne A post shared by Gift Horse Eventing (@gifthorseeventing) on
Now at this point I should have joined the rest of the team for a sponsors’ champagne lunch which looked delicious, but I was still in the middle of scrabbling around in a ridiculously hot portaloo trying to change out of my riding gear when I heard a round of applause float out from the marquee and I realised I had probably missed the boat for lunch. Oh well…..Now back to a normal human colour I re-joined my family and friends and tried to catch up on the picnic and Pimms action.
Polo, pimms, and strawbs……PERFECT! #polo #rundlecup #blogger #horse #equestrian #horsesofinstagram #squad A post shared by Gift Horse Eventing (@gifthorseeventing) on
The weather was brilliant and my endorphins were still high from the race, topped up with good company and some top notch polo from the professionals in the afternoon it was a brilliant end to an exhilarating day. If you get the chance to come along on this day you really should it’s a great excuse to watch some larking about in the charity events, some fast paced high goal polo from the pros, pic-nic to your heart’s content and enjoy a spot of retail therapy at the trade stands.