7 1/2 minutes with Jamie Le Hardy
Based at Cowdray Park in West Sussex, Jamie Le Hardy has been playing polo professionally for twenty years and is a member of the current England squad. 2017 is his eighth year at Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach.
What does a typical day entail for a professional polo player?
We’re up early to check the horses before riding and schooling in the morning, and then meetings with sponsors, patrons, and maybe teaching the odd lesson. In the afternoon I might play a few matches or simply practice, and then in the evening I’m either out with clients or organising the following day.
Do you travel much for polo?
My summers are always spent in Europe during the season, and then in winter I’ll sometimes play a bit of snow polo in Europe, or travel to the Caribbean, Australia, India, or Pakistan to play professionally. I recently went out to play in Pakistan which was pretty interesting. Amazing people, great food and a very different culture.
What is your career highlight to date?
Definitely winning the Gold Cup – The British Open – with one of the most amazing players in the world, Mexican Carlos Gracida, who sadly passed away a few months ago. He reached a 10 goal handicap, the best you can get, by the time he was 25 years old.
This year there will be Segway polo at Watergate Bay. Have you ever played polo on something different?
I’ve tried playing camel polo. It was great fun until my camel decided to bolt. That was a little bit scary, but I survived much to the hilarity of those watching.
With such a busy schedule what keeps drawing you back to Polo on the Beach?
I just love the event. It has grown immensely and wonderful to see the crowds get bigger every year. It’s amazing to get down to Watergate Bay and enjoy a couple of days by the sea in what normally is a very busy summer. I love surfing so I’ll definitely be getting in the water if there are some waves.
Is it difficult riding ponies that don’t belong to you?
We’re lucky in polo in that the horses are so well trained that you can get on pretty much any horse. If you ride well and connect with the horse quickly then you know the horse will go well for you. You get adapted pretty quickly.
How does playing on sand compare to grass?
At Watergate Bay we have a very firm surface and we’re playing with the arena ball. Sand is a really good surface to play on. The horses like it and we play a very fast and open game. It’s a smaller field so I’d say beach polo is more spectator-friendly.
Last year you played for Team Joules who won by a single goal. Is there much rivalry between the teams at polo on the beach?
We’re all good friends so the competition gets quite intense out there because we all want to beat each other. I think it’ll probably be the same this year; neck and neck and a very tight game.