66 Magazine Issue 4 Summer 2018 - Page 90

It’ll be a glorious day out for the thousands that will be there; the pinnacle event of the New Zealand polo calendar and something of a spectacle, no matter how closely you’ve been living and breathing the season. Players from around the world will be competing for New Zealand’s most sought-after polo trophies. As you’d expect, this is a prestige event. Land Rover sponsors it (hence our transport alongside that of the equine variety today) and let’s not beat about the bush; the NZ Polo Open is definitely a very Range Rover sort of event. Fun, fashion, a glass of fizz… But for the players and teams that have been fighting hard to get here, the road to Clevedon is a long trail carved with grit and determination. You’d need something decidedly utilitarian to travel it. Defender, perhaps? World-class players Glenn Sherriff and Nick Keyte know the road well; collectively they spend a lot of time on it. Glenn might be a down-to-earth Gisborne lad but when he’s not playing polo in New Zealand, you’ll find him playing for exclusive clubs in West Sussex and Windsor in the UK. Similarly, Nick divides his time between home and Australia and he’s never without a string of playing ponies. The two have played on the same team occasionally, but they’ll be on opposing sides of the pitch come the NZ Polo Open; Glenn playing for a well-respected family-run unit, while Nick has joined the prestigious Rodd & Gunn team for 2019. Both are hugely experienced and live and breathe the sport. They’re also of the opinion that both the game itself and the sport in New Zealand have evolved in recent years. “It’s interesting to come home from the UK and acclimatise to the New Zealand game,” says Glenn. “Kiwi horses and trainers are very well respected internationally and they stand apart from ponies from other regions. New Zealand- bred horses are real thoroughbreds and tend to be younger when competing, whereas horses from England or Argentina are perhaps more mature; often well into their teens. 40 66 MagAzine AUTUMN 2018 “The best horses instinctively know what to do; they learn the game in their own way. You’ll see differently-sized ponies across a team because mass isn’t as important as speed, agility and just general toughness. Bravery is handy too though, for both the pony and the rider,” he smiles. Lucy Ainsley, Executive Director of the Land Rover NZ Polo Open says that the 2019 event will debut a new format, with six teams each playing twice on Saturday, February 16th, Monday, February 18th and Tuesday, February 19th before the NZ Open finals on Saturday, February 23rd. This will be the first time in the competition’s 42-year history that the finals will be played on a Saturday.