On their third day, last Sunday, at Tianjin Young Post’s team watched the exciting Under 18 polo match that saw the Young England team clash on horseback with The Young France team. The French team scored first, but the English team rallied, winning 9-3 in the end.
On the English side were Captain William Batchelor, Ralph Richardson, Charlie Walton, Tommy Beresford and reserve player Tim Pearce May. Tommy was awarded the Best Player Award.
Before the match, 15-year-old Tommy told us he learns polo at his school, Wellington College. On overage they play three to four times a week and spend most of their holidays practicing. His teammate and best friend Ralph Richardson thinks Polo lots of fun.
“There are bonds between polo players and we are all part of a big family. We need to have great team work in order to win,” he said.
Members of the French team meet only once a week, and sometimes on weekends, as polo is not a designated sport at their school. Their team has no captain as its four players – Louis Gay, Dorian Bulteau, Thomas Calascibetta and Antoine Carli – say they’re all in charge.
They played well but missed some crucial opportunities to score. The English team then punished them with clinically executed counterattacks.
The aim in polo is to score by driving a small wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal. That’s easier said than done.
Next up for us: the Junior Equestrian & Polo Programme, which kicked off the following day.
We started early in the morning to beat the heat. After getting to know our assigned horses a bit, we hopped into the saddle – or clambered, rather, with some help. Senior equestrian instructor Isabel Branch taught us about controlling horses. You let them know which way you want to go by tugging at the reins.
Then came a practice session with mallets – astride specially made wooden horses. Mallets are the sticks used to hit the balls in polo. They can be quite heavy and take some getting used to. Isabel demonstrated how to do the swings and hit the ball forward and backward.
Head polo professional Derek Reid was also on hand to gives us bits of advice. Soon enough, our palms were sore from wielding the mallets.
The following day we did some work with shorter mallets called foot mallets.
Then it was time to get back on the horses again – and practice our swings from the saddle. It wasn’t all that easy but our instructors were patient and the careful grooms made us feel safe.
In the end, all three of us were able to hit the ball to the target, even as our horses moved about.