First of all, please give me an insight into your background. Where were you born, what type of upbringing did you have, and where were you educated?
I was born in London and we moved out to Surrey when I was 6 months old where we happened to live next to Hurtwood Park Polo Club. It didn’t take long for my parents to get hooked and every summer was polo from then on! I went to school at St Catherine’s until I was 16 and then moved to Wellington College for the sixth form.
When and how were you introduced to polo?
When I was 5 I was asked to fill in for a team in the Jorrocks section of Pony Club Polo. Perhaps saying that I played is a bit of an exaggeration, from the videos I’ve seen I stood in the middle of the pitch the entire time waiting for the next throw in. Of course, it being Jorrocks it never came..
Who originally inspired you to play?
I would say it wasn’t really inspiration, it was obligation as I was dragged to every game my parents and sisters played. My childhood was spent on Hurtwood Park sofa begging to go home. I was only 5 and you could say its grown on me a bit since then.
What attracts you most in polo, the game or the horses?
For me, it’s always been about the horses. Especially now, as I have brought on 4 ex-racers and have more on the go, seeing the progression from track to field is what keeps polo so addictive for me.
Do you play in purely women tournaments or both female and male?
Until this year I hadn’t really played much ladies polo however as the standard is improving at such a rate I have played some excellent ladies polo this year.
If it is the matter, what do you prefer and why?
I think they both have different aspects that I enjoy. When playing mixed I am often the lowest handicap off of 1 so I am very much used at the front of the team. However, when playing ladies I play at back and have had to learn to control the game which has been excellent for improving my game.
How many times a week do you train? How many horses do you change over when you are training?
I ride 6 days of the week and will alternate between doing sets if it’s the day after a game, or going out and stick and balling or schooling. I have 6 playing horses and 1 young one so it keeps me busy!
Who are your sponsors? Who supports you?
I don’t currently have any sponsors but I have had a huge amount of support from my parents throughout my polo career. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them. The HPA were also really vital in my early teens inviting me to training camps all over the world. More recently John Horsewell has taken me on and coaches me once or twice a week, and has done so for 2 years now which has improved my game a lot!
In which country do you play mostly?
I mostly play in England as this is where my horses are. I have been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places for polo; the HPA training camps took me to Coronel Suarez in Argentina and Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. I was also lucky enough to play in the Sotogrande medium goal in 2014, having played in the Polo Escape Thailand Ladies International the previous January. That was a great year for me as it was the first time I had realised where polo can take you.
What has been your greatest triumph to date?
I would say my greatest triumph was playing with King Power in Thailand in the Polo Escape International. The team was Sunny Hale, Charlotte Sweeney, Ploy Bhinsaegen and myself, it was the first time that I had ever played ladies polo and with such a strong team and I got to play with Sunny who I have always wanted to play with.
What 3 recommendations would you give to women who are thinking
of taking up the sport?
1. Play with dignity. Don’t scream, save that for tennis.
2. Don’t think of yourself as a lady player, when you are out on the field you have every opportunity that any one else does.
3. Enjoy it every time you go out on the field. A bad day at polo is still better than a good day at the office.
In the saddle, in the game what would be your tips for an advanced woman player?
I would say if you as strong a rider as any man out there, there is no reason why you can’t take them on in the game. I have always been taught that riding must come first if you really want to be successful in polo.
Some women say they feel less respected than men on the polo field because of their gender.What would you advise these women?
I always find that if I go out to prove that I am as good as any man out there then I never play well. Relax, enjoy it and behave like a sportswoman and more often than not you will gain the respect of the men. As in anything in life there will be those that are prejudiced but if you play your game and enjoy it then their opinion really shouldn’t matter.
Another question: women are physically weaker than men. Do you think women should just keep trying to match the play of their male counterparts or take a more relaxed attitude, be less serious and just have fun?
I have found that as a woman in polo you have to work twice as hard to gain someone’s respect, but once you do you get every opportunity that a man does if you deserve it. For me, although it may be controversial, I have never wanted to receive the praise “she’s very good for a girl”. If I can’t go up against a man on the same handicap then I shouldn’t be on that handicap. If every woman has this view, I think it is inevitable that the quality of women’s polo will improve.
You play at the top level for women. Do you ever feel scared as you go out on the field?
If I don’t have butterflies as I go on the field it’s never my best game, without that adrenaline it can be easy to just drift through the game. There have been a few big games where I’m very nervous before hand but the minute the ball goes in all the nerves disappear.
What do you like doing when you are not playing? Do you have any hobbies?
I play squash with my sister Ellie 4 times a week which is always fun as she’s even more competitive as I am! I’ve also developed a bit of an obsession for Red Hot Yoga which is yoga in 35-degree heat. It’s the worst hour you could imagine but if I have any stiffness or injuries from polo it really helps.
You travel a lot and as far as we know you follow the polo seasons. Where is your home? If you could live anywhere where would you prefer to live?
My home is in Surrey with my family. However, if i could live anywhere I wouldn’t just live in one place. If i won the lottery I would finish the UK season and head to Argentina until Christmas, then follow the polo seasons around the world.
What are your other business apart from polo? How do you balance that with polo?
I have been at school so juggling that with polo is always interesting, I took my a-levels last year and will be taking an a level in Spanish this summer and head off to Kings or Bristol in September 2017.
Do you have vacations from polo? If so what do you do?
Vacations are rare for me however if polo takes me somewhere it’s nice to spend a few extra days having a little holiday. For example after playing in both the Ayala and Santa Maria Ladies , I extended the trip for a few days and had a little break.
Do you face any particular challenges in the sport based on young age ?
It can be challenging sometimes combining academics and polo however my school were always really brilliant in allowing me time off to play.
Outside of school, a personal challenge I encounter is that being a type one diabetic I have to be really vigilant when playing; checking my blood sugars between chukkas and making sure it never effects my game.
Silver lining though.. being a ginger diabetic you learn to develop a sense of humour.
How do you envision the continuing growth of women’s polo over the next few years?
I believe with the new handicap system and greater recognition for women’s polo globally this growth is already happening. With new tournaments being introduced throughout the year it allows ladies to pursue polo year round and this can only improve both the quality the tournaments and the players.
I believe with the new handicap system and greater recognition for women’s polo globally this growth is already happening. This magazine is a perfect example, a few years ago the prospect of a magazine solely geared towards promoting and improving women polo would have been thought unneeded or ridiculous.
Now Polo Lady’s success proves to me that there is a definite market for ladies polo across the world and it is only going to get bigger.
THANK YOU IZZY, GOOD LUCK!