They are two of the best ladies polo players in the world, and they gathered last weekend at the Polo Club Saint Tropez to compete in the Polo Women Cup, which had a total of 6 very competitive ladies teams. One of them is from Argentina; the other, English. Rivals on the field, friends off the field, Lia Salvo and Hazel Jackson analyze the present of the Ladies polo and the steps to follow to a steady growth.
On the steady growth of the Ladies polo
Lia: “Personally, I think it’s because the number of girls involved increased, there is more and better competition, they are better riders and they are better mounted. These are the reasons among others”.
Hazel: “I think, in general, everyone is taking it a bit more seriously and it’s really competitive now, so I agree with Lia that the horses are ridiculously good, the fields; we have the opportunity now to play in the most amazing places on the most amazing fields. So, there is no place for excuses for us not to get better, and because it’s standing so good everyone is wanting to play, it’s becoming more popular and the whole thing is growing”.
Lia: “Also in Argentina there was a greater acceptance of Ladies polo; especially regarding men, players and non-players. They have understood it and accepted it, now their daughters and nieces are playing; they already born knowing how to play polo”.
On the amount of patrons and sponsors that came around:
Lia: “As Hazel said, it´s a pleasure to play in some of the best clubs of the world; it helps us a lot, in good fields we always play better, and we do it in better horses as well. It´s growing in England since a couple of years ago; in Argentina is now resurfacing, USA is also in a good level, but it will not be easy to have another Sunny (Hale), a fantastic player. In France is also good, we played against an italian team here (Team Italia Equitatus), four women that play together since several months and they are always improving, they go around different parts of Europe with their horses. I think this is a big time for women players, organizations and sponsors”.
Hazel: “Well, actually on that point, we’ve just started a Victor Ludorum Tour in England for Ladies tournaments, so we have 5 ladies tournaments of 18-goal level. This is the first year we are going to do it, and I’m sure it will take off. But I think in general the women are loving it because it’s great for us, we learn a lot and it’s ideal. It’s really nice for us to take control of the team and put more pressure ourselves. I also think that in the Ladies polo we have to work harder, so everyone’s really enjoying it. I mean, in England the amount of Ladies players is absolutely incredible, there’s a lot”.
On the Ladies handicaps:
Hazel: “I think it’s an excellent idea and it makes the tournaments really fair. Most of this tournament it’s been very close, very levelled, and it’s really nice to finally realize that we are taking it a lot more serious and I think that for the future for the sponsors it’s ideal. It’s really attractive to play an 18-goal with Ladies on a tournament”.
On the changes from when they started playing polo:
Lia: “I see a big difference, a big change in the way girls play and also in their horses. I remember when I was younger, we ride the horse that we could, we were rather subestimated, so we jumped onto a meek one, and that was enough. But now the horse has to stop, to run, to have a good mouth. We are also better organized. That´s what we are after: to ride well, to play good polo, to be well mounted, and that is how you improve. It has changed a lot in the last 5 years, it´s a real pleasure now”.
On the next steps to keep on growing:
Lía: “I always liked the idea of having at least one open tournament per year, where players of all handicaps can gather, to keep on growing together. At least one open tournament per year and then keep on playing the different tournaments around the world with our respective hándicaps, that are starting to adjust in every country”.
Hazel: “I think the same as Lía. The idea of an open in Argentina is absolutely incredible and I think that’s really going to take off. I also think about the idea to keep making test-matches, so countries play other countries. And I think it’s nice, all this ladies tournaments are becoming very established, so it’s almost like a circuit. They are getting more and more well organised and there is a lot of people behind it and supporting it”.
On the possibility of having tournaments in parallel to the major men tournaments:
Hazel: “I think it’s going to happen next year. I think for sure, to be honest, everyone’s taking it a lot more seriously, and you noticed now that important Ladies finals are happening on either the very same day of an international test-match or after the Gold Cup final in England. In Argentina is going to be hopefully working at the same time as the Argentine Open, so I think it’ happening now”.
Lía: “It would be fantastic, I love to compare it with tennis; but it has to be an attractive show, therefore, good horses, players and teams are very important. It has to be an amusing event to attend”.
On the support received by the different Associations:
Lia: “We were organizing well with the other girls during the last few years, now I see a great support from Union de Polo, from the new management, so we will strongly follow that line”.
Hazel: “We have to thank Sunny Hale for that, she is the one who started this whole idea, and it’s really taking off and everyone’s coming on board now; the level is getting so high, it will keep on growing and we must thank to Sally”.