Now or ‘neigh’ver for this Hyderabad-based polo player

The Gachibowli resident travels the world to work at stables, where she helps groom horses in exchange for conducting lessons for bussing polo enthusiasts.

HYDERABAD : Hyderabad-based 23-year-old Rajvi Sen belongs to a rare breed and one that has successfully penetrated into what was generally perceived as a man’s domain. Even more significant is that she has mastered the ‘sport of kings’ despite not having a royal pedigree. Today, she ranks prominently among the few women polo players in India.

The Gachibowli resident travels the world to work at stables, where she helps groom horses in exchange for conducting lessons for bussing polo enthusiasts.

“Although traditionally considered a man’s sport, polo is opening up for women internationally, and marginally even in India,” points Rajvi fresh from an exhibition ‘The Princess Diya Kumari Foundation Ladies Polo’ outing in Jaipur. Her team ‘Enrich’ won the first game but lost the second. 
Polo usually conjures up images of royalty. Incidentally, Rajvi belongs to a family that has no history of either riding or polo. “When I wanted to learn polo in Hyderabad, there wasn’t much encouragement or support as it was deemed an elitist pastime.

My baptism was in the local riding club, Nasr Polo.” Rajvi, who currently works as a social media and PR manager for Hyderabad Race Course (HRC), started riding when she was five years old. “I had my first lesson at a local riding club one summer. Enthused by my passion for horses and the sport, the current COO at HRC, Dr Veerendra Kaja, gifted me a horse off-the-track. That was my first horse, Scotch,” she recounts. “I have done a little bit of Dressage and Showjumping, bagged a few medals and trophies but my heartbeat for polo,” she says, on her passion.

She spent the last two years working with horses, grooming them, and as an incentive she had enough opportunities to display her polo prowess across the globe. She played matches in 2017 when the USPA women’s international polo team visited Hyderabad. In 2018, she managed to become a working polo student in France. “I paid a fraction of the fee and worked with the horses for the rest in exchange for chukkas (seven-and-a-half period of play) and lessons in a five-goal French Pro’s yard,” she recalls. The same year, she did an internship with Colonel Garcha, the former commandant of the 61st Cavalry, and revered as the godfather of Indian polo.

In 2019, she won a spot in a Polo Induction Programme in Sotogrande, Spain, and bagged a 50 per cent sponsorship by luxury ski company Powder & Byrne. Soon, she jetted off to spend the winter working with horses and simultaneously playing polo on the Costa Del Sol. The same year in May, she went on as a working-student to Prague and played an exhibition match. It was another milestone she achieved as not only was she the captain of the team but also its only girl player. In June 2019, she had a six-month polo groom apprenticeship opportunity in Scotland, where she competed on young horses.

In January 2020, she was an integral member of the Indian team in the international women’s polo tournament hosted in Manipur. In the very next month, she secured a job at Copenhagen Polo Club and remained there because of Covid compulsions. But she gained on the professional front as she played polo, groomed horses, managed the yard and got the horses fit and raring to go. 

Hard work and perseverance
Daughter to a single parent, Rajvi says: “It may sound glamorous, but I learnt polo the hard way. I started at the bottom, working long hours in exchange for chukkas. It is also 14-15 hours of physical labour daily, mucking out stalls, working with horses and exercising them. My day starts in -22 degree weather; I have to break through ice to make sure the horses have water in the fields, stay out in the yard until 11 pm.

I do all this just for a few lessons to better my game and maybe 30 minutes of unbridled joy out on the field.” As for her future plans, she says it is unrealistic to become a professional player, especially in India where it is next to impossible to get teams unless one is able to support the individual financially or “unless you play well above your handicap to be picked for teams.” Sounding optimistic despite the lack of patronage, she says, “I want to continue playing when I can work with horses, groom when I’m able to travel again in the off-season, come back, and play a few games during the polo season. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to form an all-girls team and play in a low-goal tournament.”

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.