Polo: SUPA Junior Schools National Summer Championships

Long, long, ago (last Sunday) we had a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze that wafted over the fields of Oxford Polo Club. Zoe B and an assortiment of parents and boys put up the Bruern gazebo, heralding our arrival. Heaps of cooling drinks and energy boosting snacks began to arrive with the rest of our novice players and their parents. By the start of the first match, the supporters were lined up and ready to go! Logistically, it was interesting with our ponies being at their lorry several hundred yards away but we created a bit of a system and I'm very happy to say that Bruern boys and their ponies were ready and prepared for all their chukkas (unlike some schools, no names mentioned).

We had some slight trepidation when the first match (not ours) was at blinding speed until we realised that this was the class above and not the potential opposition of our boys! Tom E and Frank R nobly took it in turns to ride for Winchester House who were short a player which they did with good grace and humour, showing real sportsmanship. The Bruern novice team (4 players - Monte F, Aidan P, Teddy C-F and Boe B) looked very smart with matching shirts and hat covers (borrowed from the ski team wardrobe) and - remarkably - clean white riding trousers! Tension was running high so lots of deep breathing required (on my part, principally).

For the uninitiated, playing on grass compared to in the indoor arena is quite a different game and the boys must keep their wits and their nerve which they did in bucket loads. The matches are short (6 minutes) and exciting; blink and you will miss a goal. It is quite a combination of skills to ride at speed, swinging a polo mallet and (mostly) hitting the ball at the same time. Thanks to the amazing ponies provided by Kirtlington Polo School (thank you Melissa!) the boys are on safe and reliable steeds. And none of them put a hoof wrong.

3 matches over, (2 each for Frank R and Tom E in a separate division so no danger of playing against their friends) then a short prize giving ceremony followed, with players and parents having to race to another area of the polo ground to watch the boys get their prizes; most of us were clutching a sandwich at this point (thank you Ryan P) as it was very much lunch on the go ahead of organising the beginners and their steeds.

New ponies were produced at this point and more smartly turned out Bruern boys (thanks to all for lending kit where needed). A lot of nerves were felt at this point as for Bill H, Arthur T, Michael C and Zach E this was their first match. The boys also did incredibly well in their arena games which are more intense as the spectators are on a viewing platform overlooking the match so there is definitely more pressure and, of course, the legendary Bruern support team (parents) were in good voice! These matches were only 4.5 minutes (although the timekeeping was a bit suspect) but given that everyone was only walking or trotting it was easier to keep on top of the score! I was so proud of the boys, some of whom only took up riding when they started polo less than a year ago. Terrific stuff.

It was a lovely day; the boys were brilliant and did Bruern proud as did, of course, their supporters! The next tournament is in November by which time we should have more beginners ready to play! How exciting...

Mrs Swift