A look ahead to the Yorkshire Polo season
PUBLISHED: 00:15 06 June 2013
Polo season is upon us. Hedley Aylott, founder and chairman of White Rose Polo Club, describes how he became hooked on a sport open to everyone.
Most people have heard of or seen polo in some way. It is a sport with an image of royalty, money, handsome men in leather boots and beautiful women sipping champagne on immaculate polo lawns. Some if not most consider it a sport to be out of reach of everyday people, requiring the deep pockets of a Russian oligarch and encyclopedic knowledge of horses.
Well, I am happy to confirm that only some of those stereotypes are true. Men look more handsome in leather boots, beautiful women do come to watch and the winning team gets a bottle of champagne. However it is an affordable sport played by adrenalin-loving people from a wide range of backgrounds, many of whom are new to riding. That is probably why polo has become one of the fastest growing sports in the country over the last five years and Yorkshire has more than 120 players and three polo clubs.
My interest in the sport began 10 years ago with a surprise polo experience day given to me by my parents. I had a two hour lesson at Ascot Park polo club and was immediately smitten. The following day we went to watch England play Brazil at the International Cartier Day in Windsor Great Park. The Queen presented the cup and I headed off to the polo shop to equip myself ready to embark on this sport. My life today would be completely different had I listened to the polo shop owner who told me I was mad and that there was ‘no polo in Yorkshire’.
However, undeterred I travelled back to Yorkshire determined to wear my new white jeans and try out the polo mallet I had just bought. I found a local club that was starting up and took my first proper lessons. The problem was I was terrible at the sport but I was hooked on the ‘polo drug’.
It was a year later that I decided to set up a polo cIub at North Cliffe, near York to improve my skills and share my new found passion with as many people as would follow me. What on paper was an act of shear folly, has in fact been an amazing journey and today White Rose is one of the largest polo clubs in England. We teach over 2,000 lessons all year round and have about 70 club members. We host tournaments throughout the summer, including the Castle Howard Cup and the Yorkshire Open Polo Championships.
You will be pleased to hear that my polo has also improved a little over the last 10 years and I now own some polo ponies. My team at White Rose and I get the greatest pleasure from introducing new people to this incredible sport and many of our students who come for lessons are new to riding. Polo has brought my wife and I the opportunity to make many new friends around the world, particularly in Argentina. I certainly agree with Winston Churchill’s assertion that ‘a polo handicap is a passport to the world’.
We have an exciting polo season ahead in Yorkshire. Here are the events you should not miss this summer:
The Summit Cup
One of the flagship tournaments of the season, it attracts hundreds of spectators who come with their picnics to watch four polo matches each day, starting at 10.30am until around 5pm. You will get to see spectacular, fast polo played by teams from Yorkshire and around the country.
White Rose Polo Club
The Castle Howard Cup
This exhibition polo event, sponsored by Paladin Capital, offers a quintessential English day out, set in the fantastic grounds of Castle Howard. Either bring a special polo picnic and watch from your picnic chairs or enjoy a beautiful VIP lunch in the marquee overlooking the hall and polo pitch, with food served by the Star Inn at Harome washed down with plenty of Pimms and champagne watching fantastic polo all day.
Claudia Aylott 01430 875767
Toulston Silver Jubilee
Toulston Polo Club near Tadcaster hosts the Silver Jubilee Tournament over three days played annually since 1977. The finals day on Sunday is a ticket only event with marquee, lunch and four matches.
Toulston Polo Club
The Yorkshire Open Polo Championships is the largest polo weekend in the county with 16 teams competing. You will see fast, exhilarating polo throughout the weekend with competing teams from around the country. This is amateur polo at its best.
White Rose Polo Club
Yorkshire polo clubs
Beverley Polo Club in East Yorkshire celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Go to beverleypoloclub.co.uk to learn more
Vale of York Polo Club near Bawtry, South Yorkshire is on the site of a former dairy with mature sand grassland, perfect polo playing conditions.
Where to learn
Most polo clubs offer lessons all year round and for all abilities – even if you haven’t ridden before. If you are interested but unsure try a two-hour taster course for £80 run by the White Rose Polo Club.
The club also offers lessons for children, students and adults either in small groups or one to one. Prices start from £15 for children, from £30 for students and from £45 for adults.
A helmet is a must as is of course a mallet, gloves to protect your hands and wear comfortable clothing.
Take advice from your local polo club experts but polo ponies are available to rent or lease if you don’t have a horse of your own.
The Hurlingham Polo Association is the sport’s governing body in the UK. Go to hpa-polo.co.uk for information about clubs, ponies, learning to play polo where to watch polo and the latest news and rules and regulations that govern the sport