Richard Blake Thomas: player profile
Richard Blake Thomas has been riding horses since he was four-years-old and playing polo since he was eight. Now, 28 years later, he represents Wales internationally and will be returning to Watergate Bay for his eighth POTB in 2017. We caught up with him to talk injuries, sibling rivalry and… top trumps.
What are your polo career highlights to date?
Playing polo is a tremendous way to grow up and it’s fantastic to call my hobby a job. Winning the Molina trophy against the US in Arizona and defending the title again last year stands out for me, as does representing England in the 2002 Euro Championships. I’ve suffered a lot of injuries through polo when I was younger, so breeding and hiring horses professionally is now my passion.
Is it fair to say you’re accident prone?
We’ve got plenty of family videos of me competing in cross-county where I’ve gone over the jump and the horse hasn’t. I’ve had three spinal surgeries, dislocated both shoulders and been knocked out cold for a ridiculous period of time. So it’s safe to say, yes.
If there was a Blake Thomas card in polo top trumps, what would your stats be?
Level head: 70 (out of 100). Mine depends on the pressure of the game. There’s so much going on in a polo match that you need to think calmly within split seconds. Think twice, and it’s too late.
Lack of regard for own safety: 100. 100 being complete lack of regard! I just go for it in matches and hope to fly out the other end OK. As you can tell from the previous questions, sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned.
Horsemanship: 65. More often than not players will only meet their pony minutes before a match. In this short amount of time you need to understand the pony’s capabilities and utilise them in a match. You don’t play to suit your style, but theirs.
Skill: 60. There are two types; skill with the stick and ball, and skill in understanding and anticipating the game. I’m better with the former.
What makes Polo on the Beach unique?
Everyone really looks forward to it: it’s the highest level of beach polo played in the UK; the rules are modified so we’re given the opportunity to really push the limits of the game; and it’s not often you get to play in front of 10,000 people. Unlike other events, polo is the main attraction here, and it’s fantastic that so many people attend and support it. The crowd get a brilliant weekend too, and all for free!
Your brother Andrew is also a regular at POTB. How do your playing techniques differ?
We’ve got a very similar style but you’ll have to ask the spectators about who the biggest match clashes happen between. [They’re between Richard and Andrew]. We’ve got a healthy sibling rivalry, but as the older brother I am of course a much better player. Remember, bragging rights always go to the winner.
You breed and import horses, but what makes a good polo pony?
Like polo players, level-headedness makes for an excellent polo pony. They need speed, agility, power and courage. They’re the major athletes of the equine world; show jumping, dressage mounted games and racing all rolled into one – they really are fantastic creatures.
What’s harder: polo or surfing?
I can stand up and start to turn on a surf board and I’ve loved surfing in some pretty cool places around the world. All in all, I think polo is harder, but there’s nothing like surfing to relax after a polo match.
Finally, describe your perfect day…
Bright sunshine and ‘stick and balling’ with my daughter who is eight-years-old and learning how to play polo. Then a relaxed game with friends followed by a good lunch down at the pub afterwards.
Sounds good to us!