By Jess Roche and Helena Casson
The Durham University Polo Club was re-established in 2014 by a group of young freshers, all sharing an unusually keen enthusiasm for horses. Disappointed that the original Durham Polo Club, founded by former England captain, Malcolm Borwick, had become extinct, the freshers took on the challenge to rebuild the club. Over the past year and a half, the team has grown exponentially, culminating in over 200 new students signing up this year at the Team Durham Fresher’s Fair in October. The huge development of the club is perhaps down to the fact that Durham Polo will take on anyone, from total beginners, who have never touched a horse in their life, to well-seasoned pros with international experience. The polo club really does have a full range of abilities. The exec committee are also working hard to keep playing memberships affordable to ensure all budding players can be involved. Sponsorship officer, Freya Smellie, recently secured sponsorship with the luxury home interiors company, Josephine Home and there are some big sponsorship deals on the horizon with further high profile companies.
Team training is on offer twice weekly for those students who can commit their time to thwacking a ball at great speeds atop a galloping charge. The club coach, Tony Wesche, is hugely enthusiastic, bringing much excitement to all the sessions. This season Durham has entered their three top teams in the beginner, novice and intermediate category in the new Northern league. The beginners team played their first match last term with an impressive 14-0 win against Newcastle. What makes this score even more impressive is the fact two chukkas are only 14 minutes, so the Durham Jaguars averaged a goal a minute. The team looks set to compete in the national league finals at the end of March, joined by the intermediate team, the Durham Lions, who qualified unchallenged. The Durham Tigers, the novice team, are due to play Leeds on Sunday 5th February – which, if they win, may lead to Durham winning every single category of the new league! Furthermore, the winter nationals are also quickly approaching in the middle of February at Rugby Polo Club. Durham has entered an impressive eight teams, which is a huge leap in numbers from 2015 when there were only nine players.
One of the major events on DUPC’s social calendar is the annual trip to Switzerland for the Snow Polo World Cup. This incredible alpine event is hosted on the frozen lake of St Moritz and is free entry to all! Although it does attract a lot of Russians adorned in head-to-toe fur, the students from Durham were not phased. A small group flew out last year, leaving summatives behind for the winter sun and mountains. An even larger group are going this year and are due to depart in a few weeks’ time, highlighting the remarkable turnaround undergone by the club in the last three years.
If you fancy trying a new sport or just want to watch some polo and go to some social events then visit www.durhamuniversitypoloclub.com or email president@durhamuniversitypoloclub for more information.
Photograph: Annie Berry