Kissimmee, FL bring the heat to Chestertons Polo in the Park – London
American Slaney O'Hanlon gears up this June's Polo contest in the capital
Chestertons Polo in the Park returns to London’s Hurlingham Park on June 8th. The international, high octane polo contest this year features a team from the sun kissed shores of Kissimmee, Florida (let’s hope they bring the heat!). We chatted with Slaney O’Hanlon who’ll be representing Team Kissimmee.
Slaney, can you start by telling us a little about yourself - where are you from in the States, and how did you get started in polo?
I am originally from New York. At the age of 15, a friend dragged me to my first polo lesson, which was also my first time on a horse, at Meadowbrook Polo Club in Old Westbury. After just the first lesson I was hooked and continued on to play throughout high school and now all over the world.
Chestertons Polo in the Park involves six teams from around the globe competing - you’ll be representing Kissimmee, FL - how did you get involved with the team?
I am very excited to have the opportunity to represent the Kissimmee, FL team. I have lived in Florida for the past seven years and consider it to be my home so when they contacted me and asked if I would be available to play for them, it was a no brainer. The city of Kissimmee is gorgeous and so much fun. I encourage anybody to visit if they have the opportunity.
Polo combines the challenge of equestrian sport with the challenge of ball sports - what kind of skills do you need to compete, and do you play other ball sports to help hone those skills?
Polo definitely takes a lot of practice to hone your skills. I am constantly working to improve my riding skills as well as my hand-eye coordination in order to control the ball the best I can. The best way to practice is spending as much time in the saddle as possible, whether it is just riding, stick & ball sessions, or practice chukkers. Right now polo consumes most, if not all, of my time so I haven’t played any other sports in quite some time. Polo is my passion so I can’t think of another sport I would rather play.
Will you be riding your own ponies at the event? How important is the relationship between rider and steed?
No, I will be renting horses from a club there. All of my horses are in the United States. The horses we use are at least 80% of the game which means the relationship between the rider and the horse is very important. As the rider you must be able to communicate what you are asking the horse to do in the right way. That is why focusing on your riding skills is so important.
This competition has a slightly different set of rules which make it a much faster version of the game - can you tell us about those changes, how you are preparing for them, and how the rules affect how you play?
I’m looking forward to experiencing the new set of rules. I can’t comment much on how it will affect my play, but I hear they really help the game to open up and be more spectator friendly.
The spectators are also closer to the action with Chestertons Polo in the Park - does the event help to get more people interested in Polo?
Definitely! Any event that gets people out to see the sport that they may not be involved in already, is great. The fact that they can see the sport up close will allow them to feel the rush that us players feel when we are on the field. That rush is what got me hooked on polo so hopefully it will do the same for others.
Chestertons Polo in the Park has become a summer staple in the British season - despite its glamor, is it also especially competitive for the riders?
Yes, any time we are on the field we are competitive. Everyone wants to win and play their best game possible, especially when competing in such a great event.
Whilst you're in Britain, what else do you hope to get up to whilst on this side of the Pond?
My family is originally from Ireland so I definitely hope to see them as well as some friends that live in Europe.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to at Chestertons Polo in the Park?
I’m looking forward to meeting new players and fans of the sport. Being a part of such a great event while playing the sport I love is what makes this all worth it.
Kick off your summer at Chestertons Polo in the Park on 8th, 9th and 10th June. Buy your tickets now at polointheparklondon.com/tickets