ONE OF JUST TWO 10 GOAL FEMALE POLO PLAYERS IN THE WORLD!
The key to success in most sports is to become the best athlete possible. Polo is unique though – you don’t just train yourself, you also train your horse. In a sport with some unique physical challenges, Hazel Jackson-Gaona has worked tirelessly to become the 2nd best player in the world of women’s polo.
On The Perfect Athlete this week it’s time to demystify a sport which few people know much about beyond the Ralph Lauren logo – from the cost of breeding and genetics in the equestrian field, to the preference of flexibility over pure physicality and managing injuries with less strength training.
“In general, the best Polo ponies come from Argentina, and they’re a specific type. They’re short, they’ve got amazing bums and a lot of muscle, because they need to be quick, need to be agile and they need a lot of stamina.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“Realistically we focus more on the horses. For us, it’s more important to arrive on the day with your horses feeling their best, rather than yourself. You come last. Our horses, for example, train six days a week, twice a day.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“They’re now putting heart monitors on the horses and working out how many kilometers they cover on the field and measuring the heartbeat. But it’s all very fresh. It’s all very new. We’re a little bit old school in that department.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“Of course, we do strength training but it’s just for me, personally, I can use my own bodyweight and that’s almost enough. For guys, you don’t want to be carrying extra weight or extra muscle because it restricts your movement, and you don’t want more kilograms on the horse.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“We’re a little bit behind on the training and the nutrition compared to other sports, because it used to be a hobby for most people. It’s only within the last 10 years that it’s gotten very professional. We work a lot on recovery as such, and make sure we’re getting enough protein, but it’s quite simple.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“I used to train fighters for charity boxing matches, and they used to come to me and say ‘What should I eat on the day of the fight?’. I’d say ‘What do you usually eat?’, because you don’t want to upset your stomach on the day of a fight. That’s the last thing you need, so don’t change it too much. And I think definitely the feel for what’s right for you is important and listening to your body.” – Chris Billam-Smith
“In Polo you usually have a sponsor which we call a patron, and they pay for your professionals. So there are now a lot of women who are patroning a team, and you know, they’re choosing their professionals. Now we have a woman-only Polo, but also we have mixed Polo, so we have the best of both worlds.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona
“The horses are on a really specific diet – I think I focus more on their diet than I do on myself. They get fed in the mornings and in the afternoon, it’s a specific amount of hay. Sometimes they even get muzzled during the night so they don’t eat anything during the evening. I’m not a fan of that personally, but some of the higher level they do.” – Hazel Jackson-Gaona