Polo, traditionally considered a king’s sport, is seeing a welcome change with more and more women picking up the mallet. As India’s First All Women’s polo chukker presented by Lockheed Martin (in association with Tata Sons and I.L.A. Pasrich & Company) kicked off in the capital, we caught up with the players, who spoke about their experience of being participants of an all-woman team, their love for riding, the strengths that women bring on field and the challenges they face while playing the sport.
Twenty four-year-old Avshreya Rudy, daughter of Neelam Rudy and Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, has been riding from the age of four. Avshreya aka Bambi, as friends and family fondly call her, believes that heading an all-woman team is no easy affair. “Playing with only men or only women has its own challenges. At times, it is difficult to play with men as they do not take you seriously,” she says.
She goes on, “Playing with them might get a little dangerous and aggressive on field but if you get scared, then you don’t have a chance in the sport. Playing with an all-woman team is not easy either. There is a possibility of ego clashes among women, and they generally don’t want to be told what should be done on the field. Polo is one of the few sports where men and women compete as equals, and I personally feel that you become equal to them only when you play equally with them.”
Echoing the same sentiment, another player Monica Saxena, the only Indian polo player who is also a mother of two, says, “It is a pleasure to play with men. We do not want to segregate the two, because polo is one of the only sports where both men and women can play together and be at par on field. The horse does not know about your gender, your background or if you are rich or poor. We can’t match up to the genetic strength of men but the good thing about this equestrian sport is that men don’t really look down upon women.”
Monica believes that it is a passion for riding and a harmonious equation with the horse that matters the most. “Love for horses, understanding them, becoming friends with them and of course, being a sound rider makes you an efficient polo player. If you have to hit a ball while riding on a four-legged animal with a mind of his own, then your minds have to click; they have to be one to reach the ball, and then comes the eye-ball coordination etc,” she says.
French player Carine Barbe, 43, who has experience of playing with both genders, says, “While I was in France, I used to ride there but I started playing polo once I came to India during 2006-11. Back in Europe, I do play polo but it is very different from playing with an all-woman team here. While playing with men, they would hit me some nice passes and I could score goals. But in the case of all women, I have to be like a man — strong and sturdy, pushing and making the game roll further. Also, women are quieter and shout less on the field.” One has to look glamorous while sitting on a horse too, believes Monica. “A horse is a beautiful gift from God and if you look like an ass sitting on it, then it is not your sport. You have to be comfortable with the horse and as soon as you sit, the grace should come on its own,” she concludes....