Polo | People
04 July, 2018
La Polo brings to you the best of names and the most renowned faces from women’s polo.
Despite being a unique sport where men and women can compete together as opponents and teammates, Polo has had its fair share of discrimination and male dominance. The dominance is still prevalent if one compares the ratio of male and female players in the sport worldwide. However, when it comes to skills, achievements, and passion, women polo players from across the globe have been marching shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. From a time when women were banned from playing to several all-women tournaments being organised in various parts of the world, polo surely has come a long way.
In the short but glorious history of modern-day women’s polo, several big names have made huge impacts in the sporting scenario. We present you a list of women from the world of polo you must know about.
Sue Sally Hale, the first rated female player of polo, disguised herself as a man for 20 years when she began to compete in the 1950s, a time when females were barred entry into the sport. She would sport a false moustache and tuck her hair under the helmet. It was only in 1972 that US Polo Association gave in to her demands and admitted her in their ranks. The woman who would play under the pseudonym ‘A Jones’, paved way for a glorious career in the sport for her daughter, who went on to become a legend in world polo. Born in Carmel, California, Sunny Hale is regarded as the most famous female polo player in history. One of the very few female professionals to have played in teams with all male teammates, she won the 2000 U.S. Open Polo Championship. From being named the most valuable female polo player seven times, to being called "the most influential person in where women’s polo is today."- Hale’s contribution in the development of women’s polo has been widely recognised and acknowledged.
On 26th February 2017, she passed away due to complications from breast cancer, aged 48.
Growing up, Uneku was always a child with a dream. Love for horses began early in the childhood when she would clean stables. From there, she went on to become the first black female polo player in the world. The 30 year-old represents her native country Nigeria on the international stage, and also runs a charity by the name of ‘Ride to Shine’. Hers is a classic ‘from rags to riches’ story. Probably this is what compels her to regularly spend time with orphans, also teaching them riding techniques to help them develop and pursue their interest in the equestrian world. Her charity raises funds for their education trust funds to help them realise their dreams.
She is credited for organising West Africa’s first ever female tournament, and was one of the two Nigerians who made it to the Forbes magazine’s ‘30 under 30’ list in 2016.
Been in the UK polo scenario for 13 years now, Georgie Wood has represented Great Britain at junior level and played at the Ladies UK Nationals each year. Baffled by the low recognition of the female polo, lack of sponsors and opportunities, she decided to bring about a change. Along with her mother Sarah Wood, she co-founded Women In Polo (WIP) UK, an organisation aimed at making polo more accessible, achievable and equal for women. Woods’ organisation in its inaugural year, launched WIP Ladies’ League featuring five teams. This was preceded by establishment of an International Exchange of ladies’ national teams from different countries. The first exchange of such kind was WIP UK vs Columbia. The Woods and their organisation joined hands with the ‘The Girl Can’ and Glamour magazine’s ‘Say No To Sexism In Sports’ campaigns in 2015, to help raise female voices in the world of polo.
The 35 year-old from England is considered to be the best female polo player in the world, and the only one having a 10-handicap. Nina started playing polo aged 6 and is daughter of former polo player Mark Vestey. She is married to John Paul Clarkin, a polo player from New Zealand, who was her teammate in the British Gold Cup 2003 winning quartet of the Hindon Polo Team. Last year, she won the Women’s International Polo Championship in Singapore
In an interview, Clarkin mentioned her yet another memorable achievement which came while playing in an all-ladies team comprising of Lucy Taylor, Tamara Fox (her sister), Emma Wood and herself. Playing for the Appetized Team, they won the Gerald Balding and Holden White, a national mixed 8-goal tournament in England.
Coming from a polo family, Lia began riding as early as 4 years of age and played her first polo tournament at 12. The 30 year-old from Argentina has become the face of rising female polo in the country. She, along with her father, owns 80-100 ponies on their farm and focus on buying and making horses best suitable for female players. Finding a suitable horse for a female player can be a tough job, Lia and her father aim to address the same and promote a competitive level in women’s polo.
She made history in 2016 when she became the first-ever woman to win the Jockey Club Polo Open, a tournament that precedes the Triple Crown in Argentina, playing for El Paso Polo Ranch La Dolfina alongside Adolfo Cambiaso as her teammate. At present, she sits on the topmost position in the World Polo Tour rankings.
She associated herself with the sport at the age of 12, in 1995. Today Sarah Wiseman stands at 7 ladies handicaps, 2 mixed handicaps, and counted amongst the best female polo players worldwide. She has played for various team in the UK, Malaysia, Thailand, Barbados, Argentina and the USA to name a few. Internationally, she has represented England and won in Women’s International events against the USA in 2014 and Argentina in 2016. 3 years ago, she set up her own club called Aspect Polo and currently holds the position of the club’s director. The club hosts a popular ladies tournaments with two categories: 6-12 goals and 13-18 goals, and has played host to 6 teams in each of the past two years. Apart from being a true patron of ladies’ polo, Sarah has also won the title of and has been nominated several times for ‘The Most Outstanding Lady Player’.
“A horse is a beautiful gift from God”, believes Monica Saxena, adding that a polo player should maintain “the same swiftness and grace” as a horse. Out of about 200 polo players in the country, India has female players only in single digits. One of the prominent names is that of Monica, the only Indian female polo player who is a mother of two. She is married to Indian polo player and commentator Sharad Saxena. In 2016, she captained one of the two first All Women’s teams of India. Participating in the Tata Polo Cup 2016, the sponsors Lockheed Martin picked her as their captain, as they went up against team Max Fort School which had some other iconic figures from Indian women’s polo including the likes of Rinaa Shah and Avshreya Rudy.
Carrying forward the legacy of the name Cambiaso, is 15 year-old Mia. In March earlier this year, she teamed up with her father and 12 year-old brother Poroto to win the prestigious Sterling Cup. With Magoo Laprida finishing the quartet, it was a historic moment for the sport as the Cambiasos won their first ever high-goal (20) tournament playing together. Mia was named the Most Valuable Player of the final match, played against team Audi featuring the likes of Nic Roldan and Nico Pieres. The Cambiaso siblings are believed to be the youngest players ever to win the title, making her the youngest female to achieve the feat. The duo won their first ever tournament as teammates in April last year, when they lifted the Santa Rita Handicap trophy playing for Valiente. Mia was named the MVP of the tournament.
She was also a part of the La Dolfina quartet which won the first ever Argentine Women’s Open in November 2017, where she played alongside the big names of Nina Clarkin, Milagros and Candelaria Fernández Araujo.
Here’s an inspiring woman whose passion for polo compelled her to leave her home in London, at the age of 17, and move to Argentina for better facilities. When she turned 19, she bought her own farm
Annabel McNaught-Davis, 30 years old, was brought up in a completely non equestrian family and educated at Roedean School in Brighton. Currently standing at 6 goals in ladies’ handicap and 1 goal in mixed, she aims at taking her tally to 8 goals and 2 goals. She sported La Varzea colours at the first ever Argentine Women’s Open in November last year, and has also won the Maharani Cup at Nuestra Tierra in Argentina in its first year.
The 2017 winner of ‘Most Outstanding Lady Player’ award at the Guards Polo Club, Hazel currently sits at 3rd in the world women’s rankings. The 27 year-old has had a glorious career so far, and doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Rated 9 handicap in women’s and 2 in mixed polo, she became the first woman to captain England Polo Team. On several occasions, she has had the opportunity to play alongside HH The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William. Hazel plays the UK polo season, which runs from May to September. Months from October to December are spent playing the Argentine season. She also travels to various other polo destinations such as Thailand, Barbados, Singapore, America, Switzerland, and her favourite Barcelona.
Under her captaincy team Ellerstina made it to the finals of the first ever Argentine Women’s Polo Open, the highest ladies’ tournament in the world, held in November-December 2017.
Brought up in Philadelphia, riding horses since childhood, her equestrian love had grown early on. Melissa’s polo journey began in the year 2000, when her father-in-law gifted her first polo pony. Already an accomplished horsewoman in dressage, show jumping and cross country, she soon adapted to and fell in love with the sport.
Along with her husband Marc Ganzi, himself a top amateur player from the US, she owns and runs Grand Champions Polo Club at Wellington, Florida.The club hosts a bunch of tournaments where several of the big names from the world of polo are regular competitors at the club, playing for various teams. Ganzi herself is captain of the club’s team Flexjet. The duo also co-founded the famous Aspen Valley Polo Club, known for hosting the grand tournaments such as the The Triple Crown of Polo Trophy, The USPA National Arena Handicap, and the World Snow Polo Championship Aspen to name a few.
She is a popular guest and competitor at the Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz, the only high-goal snow polo tournament in the world. Melissa Ganzi is president and fundraiser for the National Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Board of Directors and secretary-treasurer of the Polo Training Foundation. The foundation has produced several top professionals over the years in the country.
She has been lifelong horsewoman, who took up polo professionally in 2002 when she quit Grand Prix Show Jumping. This was one year after she had the opportunity to play her first polo game in an exhibition match. There was a time when Maureen left her job as a financial analyst in New York City to return to the equestrian world, with which she had been associated from a young age.
Today, she owns a breeding operation and Virginia International Polo Club which is one of the largest clubs in the region. Brennan captains her team Goose Creek Polo with which she has won several major trophies multiple times, including the Silver Cup, the US Women’s Open, and high goal tournament at the Palm Beach winter season. In many of such competitions, she has been presented with the Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony titles. Currently, Maureen stands at a 6-goal handicap in women’s polo and 1 goal in mixed polo.
HH Sheikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Princess of Dubai and daughter of HH Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. A friend introduced her to polo when she was 17. However, it was only in December 2011 at the age of 32, that she took up the sport seriously. From there on, it has been a series of achievements and accolades in the sport for the princess. She became the first person to introduce women’s polo in the UAE and established Ralph Lauren Ladies Polo Tournament, in association with ‘Dubai Cares’- a philanthropic organisation working towards improvement of children’s education in the developing countries. Her Highness has been a long time devotee in such charity projects.
The tournament over the years has witnessed her playing alongside the biggest names from the global female polo fraternity- Nina Clarkin, Sunny Hale, and Lucy Taylor to name a few. She has added several major trophies to her list f achievements including the Julius Baer Gold Cup, playing for UAE Polo Team and the Ralph Lauren Ladies Polo Tournament title. The former taekwondo player became the first ever woman to represent UAE in Olympics when she participated in the 67 kg category of taekwondo in 2008 Beijing Olympics.