IG HAC Polo Team Training Camp at Rugby Polo Club

The 2013 polo training camp saw the HAC return once more to Rugby Polo Club in Northamptonshire. Phil Baker re-established Rugby Polo Club in 2000 and was our coach for the weekend; he had previously played Pony Club polo with Tpr Luke Hartley, although there was some confusion over this fact due to the more advanced hair style that Tpr Hartley has taken to wearing of late.

For three members of the team the day started on the nose of 1000 on Monday morning; regrettably, the talismanic figure of Sgt Tim Johnson was absent for much of the first session after being held up between his house in Clapham and the M1 motorway by the unexpected presence of London. Not one to be put off easily he pushed on, arriving midway through the first stick and ball of the day. While Phil admired some of the more idiosyncratic elements of the HAC style he felt that a focus on timing and smooth strokes would be beneficial, and after working us through a number of exercises we were all hitting the ball with improved fluency. LCpl Gearoid O’Connor was particularly impressive that afternoon, consuming twice the number of lunches that anyone else managed over the course of the day. Phil very kindly invited us to join club members at the leaving BBQ for Katie, a Rugby Polo Club groom who has looked after the HAC during a number of matches in the past. After some excellent food and a few drinks we retired back to the Toft House bed and breakfast so as to be well rested for the following day’s play.

Fortunately the weather held and we were greeted once more with brilliant sunshine. Sgt Tim Johnson surprised everyone at breakfast by espousing his theories on the socio-economic benefits associated with increased Romanian immigration. After digesting this information the team mounted up to focus on tactical match play and positioning, both during open play and in set pieces. This developed into a practise match in which we attempted to execute everything we had been taught over the previous two days, no easy feat given the depth of content that Phil had covered.

A huge thanks to Rugby Polo Club and to Phil Baker for an excellent two days of polo. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to coming back to Rugby Polo Club again soon.

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Rugby Polo Club, 2012 Tactics

HAC Polo Rugby club training camp 2012

The week preceding the weekend of Saturday 9th June typified the great British summer of 2012. Holidaymakers’ caravans were being swept away by flash floods in Wales, while flooded tube lines caused commuter chaos across the City. It was against the background of the continuing deluge that the HAC arrived at Rugby Polo Club in Warwickshire for the June training weekend. The course was run by Phil Baker, the polo manager at the club. The unseasonal conditions forced practise on Saturday into one of the clubs two large indoor arenas, where Phil put the HAC through a series of drills developing shots on both the near and offside of the pony. The mechanics and reasoning behind each swing were explained in detail before players attempted the swings at a stand still, progressing to a walk and then a gentle canter.

Arena Polo Lesson
Phil Baker recaps and explains the mechanics of the various swings

After a tactics session in the clubhouse in front of the whiteboard came club chukkas, and an opportunity to execute the swings taught earlier in match play. For many members of the HAC this was their first taste of competitive arena polo, a bewildering transition for those used to the pace and flow of the outdoor game. Players have to adjust not only to different rules but also to a fundamentally different style of play; the game commences and turns at a much faster pace than on grass, and rapid adjustments have to be made for the constant movement of the ball off the walls.


Blue skies and sunshine on Sunday heralded the move outdoors onto grass. Fresh ponies, (used to a summer season spent indoors), were brought out, and after a warm up session with Glyn – a former 6 goal Kiwi instructor – Phil elaborated on new drills and stick & ball techniques to improve both coordination and timing. After lunch, another tactical brief and plenty of coffee in the clubhouse the focus shifted to positional play and team tactics, often a weak point in the HAC’s game. Despite the darkening skies and a perceptible drop in temperature the rain held off for the remainder of the afternoon, and after a long day in the saddle the tired players gathered in the clubhouse for a final cup of tea and cake before the drive back to London.

The instruction and facilities at Rugby were excellent, and the players finished the weekend imbued with new skills and tactical insights into the game. HAC Polo would like to thank the Baker family and Rugby Polo Club for looking after us so well, and we look forward to future weekends in Warwickshire.

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Leadenham House, Polo Training Camp 2012

Leadenham Polo Training Camp 2012

The start of the 2012 polo season took place on the final weekend of April with our now annual polo training camp at Leadenham in Lincolnshire. The 8 places were quickly snapped up and despite the foreboding weather forecast the group rendezvoused for a swift tipple in the George Hotel on the Friday night. After a restful night in Leadenham House the good news was that the national drought issue was being addressed with a relentless torrent of rain sweeping in from the North Sea. While the weather forced a move to a nearby pitch in RAF Cranwell it did not daunt the assembled players from mounting up and shaking off the winter cob webs and settling back into the saddle. It wasn’t long before the riders warmed up and began to put each other through their paces with passing and supporting.

Leadenham House, Polo Training Camp 2012

 
The morning saw a stick and ball session for all riders to focus on their riding technique and balance. After a lunch at Leadenham House the group returned to have some instructional chukkas under the watchful eye of Miles Underwood the polo manager at Leadenham. It was reassuring to see LCpl O’Riordan return to his former standard of play by dismounting with panache and performing a text book “tuck and roll” – a big improvement on his pile driver technique at the 105 Invitational in 2010. Sgt Johnson returned to form with a vocal performance that drowned out the wind and rain at times and left Julian Bowman wondering if he was perhaps back in uniform and transported to a recruits course with a barking platoon sergeant.

LSgt Al Grant coming to terms with the UK

LSgt Grant also made some progress realising that he was no longer in Colombia and was in fact back in the UK…baby steps I suppose. In the midst of all this our one member with no military background took it all in her stride as Astrid focused on subduing a bucking bronco.

The group returned gratefully to the warmth of Leadenham House for the post-training debrief and beers. The Saturday night allowed the group to discuss the day’s progress over a wonderful candlelit dinner in the Dining Room.

Sunset sadly gave false hope for Sunday's practice.More in hope than expectation Sunday arrived to see the rain intensify and following a quick inspection of the pitch the group decided it was best to apply the approach that “discretion is the better part of valour” and that the group should call the weekend to a close. Despite the weather the weekend proved useful to shake off the winter for those who had not ridden, and the odd stiff walk was observed en route to the cars for the rain-lashed trip back to London. The following weekend sees the Team return to RAF Cranwell for the first competition of the season.

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