Young polo players

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Audi Magazine_Vorsprung_

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Words_Johanna Derry

Photography_Nick Ballon

field of dre amsFrom the top of the game right down to grass-roots, Audi is supporting excellence in UK polo. Four young Pony Club polo players explain why they love the sport

Polo is brutal, says 14-year-old Charlie Hitchman. I love it. This doesnt sound quite right. I associate polo with the wealthy, with champagne, posh frocks and designer shoes, plummy accents and princes. That couldnt be further away from what Charlie is telling me, or where hes saying it. Im standing in the middle of a ground at Longdole Polo Club in Gloucestershire, with three other keen teenage Pony Club Polo players, about to stick and ball. Theres nothing exclusive about this in fact, it feels as down to earth as a five-a-side football match on a Sunday morning. Despite what a lot of people think, polo is an accessible sport, says Suzannah Turk, branch manager at the Berkeley Hunt Branch of The Pony Club. All three of her children play. The Pony Club is keen for more young people to try the sport. The previous branch manager was looking for new children to play so she ran a come and have a go session. My eldest son was 11 at the time. He really enjoyed it and hasnt stopped playing. Hes 17 now. The Pony Club is an international voluntary organisation for youngsters up to the age of 21. It aims to introduce people to riding and its associated sports, of which polo is one, and teach them how to care for horses. It isnt necessary to own your own pony children can learn to ride on horses at the Pony Club Centres, and try out equestrian disciplines such as polo. Audi has supported the charity since 2010, helping nurture grass-roots polo by sponsoring the annual Audi Pony Club Polo Championships. Its a logical fit, since most of the 50 top players in the UK got into the sport through The Pony Club. As sponsor of the England team, Audi is keen to ensure future players enjoy similar levels of opportunity and success. Thirteen-year-olds Tom Coid, Rosanna Turk and Katherine Witchell, along with Charlie, have been playing polo since they were aged 10 or 11. Its fast, says Rosanna, You cant be a poncy girl if you want to play, and you have to be a good rider because theres lots of stopping and making sharp turns. Its really exciting, says Tom, adding: My mum is petrified whenever I play. Where most equestrian sports at junior level are dominated by girls, this is one of the few disciplines that has an equal mix of girls and boys taking part. You have to be fairly brave, says Katherine. You cant be afraid of bumping into someone, and the more you play, the more competitive you become. Some of these teenagers may go on to become professionals, but in the meantime theyre learning to play a fun and fast-paced sport. My favourite things about polo? Scoring a goal, winning, the speed of the game, the competition and the contact, lists Charlie. He could be talking about football or rugby, its just that this sport involves horses. Meanwhile, Rosanna reels off a list of the bones shes broken and how many times. Although theres a part of the polo universe where canapes and social chit-chat on the lawn does exist, this isnt it. This is lots more fun.Charlie Hitchman, Katherine Witchell, Rosanna Turk and Tom Coid, all Pony Club polo players, in the grounds of Longdole Polo Club in Gloucestershire

You can't be a poncy girl. You have to be a good rider because of the stops and turns'

_Many thanks to Longdole Polo Club