Benjie is a player at Ham Polo Club and is also on the club’s committee. So he’s well positioned to give us a unique take on what makes Ham Polo Club so special!
Can you give us a brief background on the Ham Polo Club?
Ham Polo Club was established in 1926 at grounds adjacent to Ham Common on the edge of Richmond. It later moved to new fields in the grounds of Ham House. The club was the first to revive polo after WWII under the management of Billy Walsh.
The stunning location, nestled between Richmond Park and the River Thames, is one of the most idyllic and historic locations for the sport in the UK. Ham has two grounds at the club and use of a further two inside Richmond Park, the Roehampton Ground in the park being one of the original polo fields in England.
In addition to the clubs history, what else makes Ham Polo Club so unique?
Firstly the location, Ham is just 7 miles from Hyde Park Corner, its a unique window on the sport for a lot of people. The close proximity to London means the atmosphere at match days is fantastic with a huge number of visitors present. Secondly the members, Ham has a reputation for being one of the most welcoming clubs you can visit.
What are some of the most important tournaments you host throughout the year?
Tournaments take place throughout the season and range from 2 to 6 goal. The flagship tournament is the Roehampton Cup which dates back to 1902 and now forms part of the HPA 6 goal Victor Ludorum circuit. The cup was originally the premier tournament at the Roehampton club with teams of up to 35 goals competing for it. Polo eventually ceased at Roehampton and the cup came to the nearest neighbouring polo club, Ham. The early stages of the tournament are played at the Black Bears grounds in Henley before the big finals day in Richmond.
Does Ham Polo Club host many visiting players from abroad?
Absolutely! We have visiting teams from all over the world, we’ve even had teams from as far as China and Kazakhstan in the last two seasons.
And what kind of tournaments do your members participate in?
We have a number of away fixtures against other clubs that take place annually. Our players also compete in tournaments at Cowdray and Guards regularly. In 2018 Ham teams had some success at Cowdray and one of our players entered his team in the Royal Windsor Cup at Guards.
How many ponies does the club have?
The Club owns a string of ponies for the Academy and then there are usually around 120 horses at the club that are owned by the members.
And where do your members typically purchase their horses?
The vast majority have come from Argentina and the members are very happy with the ponies coming from there. One of the families playing at Ham Polo Club brought a number of horses from Chile, which are going very well for them.
Additionally, we have some horses that are English Thoroughbreds retrained from racing by professionals in the UK. It’s a nice mix and certainly gives the commentators a lot to talk about as the players are warming up.
Are you seeing a lot of interest in polo from new joiners?
Yes, the Ham Polo Academy is hugely busy and the Head Coach Jason Warren is constantly teaching. Lucy Dowie runs the Junior Academy which includes holiday camps where young riders can learn all about looking after their horses as well as playing them. We also have HPC Fitness running now to help with polo specific or just general fitness and stamina.
And if someone is interested in coming and taking lessons at your club, what is the best way for them to get started?
Just start by calling the polo office, you can book in for an assessment and introduction. Depending on your ability you can start with wooden horse stick work and riding lessons on the track.
Once safe lessons take place in the practice area and when you feel ready the club runs instructional chukkas to provide a safe and controlled introduction to playing in competition.
Anyone in London on June 20th (this Thursday) should make a trip out to Ham Polo Club to watch the Laureus Polo Cup. This charity fundraiser should prove to be great fun for everyone in attendance.