The 6 goaler of the English National Team talks about the importance of horse workers.
What does polo mean for you?
I mean it’s weird, because when you spend so much time playing it during the year, you can’t wait to be off. But when you are away from it for a month, you realize how much you miss it. In my eyes, it’s all about the horses. I live for them, and spend most of my time trying to improve them.
What does the horse mean for a polo player?
It’s a difficult one. I think that a good horse almost knows what you’re thinking. People ask: “how did you get it to stop at such speed?”. I think that given the time we spend riding them, the horse already knows what you want to do. It’s come naturally, honestly.
Do you have a favourite?
Definitely, you always do. I played a lot of horses from Australia. This year I played one called Twitter, which won the Best Pony award at the Queen’s Cup Final. Apart from getting the ball into the goal, she does pretty much everything for you.
Who was your toughest opponent?
Facu* (Pieres). 100%. I mean, Cambiaso definitely knows how to make his teams win, but I find Facu to be impossible to defend 1 on 1. When we play against him, we have to put two players on him.
Facundo Pieres will be playing for Ellerstina in the XPL.
How would you describe the job of the horse workers?
I think that they only do it for the love of it. They don’t have days off. They are available for work 24 hours a day, because quite often the horses need things at 10pm, and some others at 5am. It’s a passion, they do it for love. It’s something that you get hooked up on, and it’s hard to stay away from it. You rely everything on your head-groom. Your life is with them. Their importance is massive.
How do you take care of yourself?
We’ve been especially working hard the last few years in terms of nutrition. 10 years ago I would have taken a beer and a packet of chips and thought it would be no problem. But the last 4 years we’ve made huge improvements, working with specialists. You just play so much better when you do it.
How would you define yourself as a player?
I’m a team-player, hard-worker, I’m loyal to the team.
What do you think about the XPL?
For the last few years, we’ve been talking a lot in England about developing a world tour, like most sports have. I think that we the XPL wants to do with having games in different countries and these teams playing all around the world is what everyone’s been wanting to happen. I’m hoping that we finally have the momentum and the push that can get people behind it. Hopefully we can get fans from all around the world supporting the teams, like what happens with F1 drivers, or football clubs.
Last year we started seeing some drone footage, and it made a huge difference in how you experience the sport as a viewer. With all the different angles you’re going to get the speed, the skill, the danger.
Do you think the handicap limits will make the league more competitive?
Definitely. For the young ones it’s going to be great. When I was younger I never had the opportunity to play with the big guys, and I had been playing professionally for 20 years or so. I think it’s something that you have to go through to keep improving. I also think that if you get 4 guys that are 10 goalers they are pretty much untouchable. Mixing them up will give guys that don’t have these big organizations a chance to shine. I think the XPL will offer polo players a platform to prove themselves, and for young guys to keep improving.
How will working with a team-owner change the dynamics of the team?
Because in polo we usually tend to play for a lot of teams, it can get a bit lonely at times. Creating these big teams with which you travel around the world can only be a good thing. We’ve all played other sports like football and rugby when we were young, and those were the best times, where you get most of your friends. I think it’s going to be great.