A Norwich queen among kings
The 'game of kings' may have met its match with Norwich businesswoman Sarah Blyth as the sport gets a female face ahead of the Norfolk Polo festival this weekend. Emma Harrowing reports.
During a polo match the ball can travel at up to 110mph as each team tries to get it down a field 300 yards long and 160 yards wide to score between the goal posts while keeping their horses at a steady gallop. It's a challenging task and one that takes the utmost skill, drive and determination; no wonder the sport is dubbed 'the game of kings'.
While the equestrian sport is still dominated by men there are a few women taking the reins, such as Sarah Blyth from Norwich who took up the sport two years ago.
'Moving back from London I wanted a hobby, something that was a challenge,' says 28-year-old Sarah. 'I liked the sound of polo so I searched on the internet and was surprised that there was a club in Loddon.'
Sarah plays for the Norfolk Polo Club in Langley Abbey, just up the road from Loddon. Next weekend the club is organising the second Norfolk Polo Festival at the abbey which will see local teams competing against each other to win one of the coveted cups. The event is sponsored by Coutts and is in association with our sister paper the Eastern Daily Press – both will have teams competing against each other in a high-goal exhibition match on the Saturday.
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'The festival is a great weekend of polo even if you are a complete novice to the sport,' says Sarah. 'There are five competitive polo matches on each day of the two-day festival with teams from the Eastern Daily Press, Coutts and teams made up of some other well-known business people as well as club players. While you watch the games you can enjoy champagne and canapes on private VIP lawns or relax pitch-side with family and friends.'
For those not familiar with the sport the game is played by two teams of four over seven-minute chukkas or timed periods of play. When you have the ball you have to stay at a gallop and keep your horse in line with the ball. You can then either pass the ball to a member of your team or carry the ball down field to try to score a goal.
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It sounds like a difficult sport to master but for Sarah the game came quite naturally to her – well almost: 'For me practically I think I adapted quite easily; it's more a case of knowing the rules which I certainly need to work on! But practice makes perfect.
'I have fallen off a few times and I rode into the goal post once and knocked it over, but I did score a goal at the same time!'
When she is not training or taking part in matches on the pitch, Sarah runs her own property business which has recently moved to premises on Wensum Street.
'Running my own business means that I cannot train as much as I would like,' says Sarah. 'It is a good distraction from the day-to-day running of a business as when you are in the saddle work is the last thing on your mind. It's also great exercise and good for social networking and I've met some of the nicest and entertaining people I know through polo.'
At the festival Sarah is combining business and pleasure by sponsoring one of the cups. The Dunn & Co cup is one of three cups teams will be competing for on the Sunday of the festival weekend. Sarah says: 'It is a pleasure to be one of the sponsors of the event as I couldn't think of anything better than combining my two biggest passions – my business and polo. And as far as polo being the 'game of kings' it is still a male-dominated sport but us women give as good as we get!'
The Norfolk Polo Festival takes place on Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29 at the Langley Abbey Estate.