James Harper was one of the best players of the 2019 English season. Playing well above his handicap of 6-goals, Harper claimed the Queen’s Cup with the Australian based team Scone, an organisation that debuted in the English high goal this year. Harper and Scone then went on to qualify for the semifinals of the Gold Cup, a tournament which the Brit had won the previous year alongside teammate James Beim whilst playing for El Remanso (in an all English team completed by Ollie Cudmore and Charlie Hanbury).
Harper is a fantastic player, and unsurprisingly, he is mad about horses. He shone playing Twitter, a mare that won many prizes over the season. Harper spoke to Pololine about this outstanding mare and his overall love of horses.
Can you describe your ideal polo horse?
I’ve been very lucky to be involved with the Ellerston breed a lot, in Australia. I really like their breed: amazing sides, great mouth, good temperament, around 15-15.2hh, a lot of try, and the ones with the power turn into horses like Twitter, who won all the prizes this year.
What is the most important characteristic for a polo horse?
The horse needs to trust you and be prepared to do whatever you ask it. When they start enjoying winning plays and really trying for you, that is a great feeling.
What is your ideal number of horses for a string?
You can have too many horses, amazingly enough! For my son and I, we normally try and have about 20-24, which works well. But for the high goal season, you need about 10-12 to pick from, but obviously your main 4-5 do a lot.
On average, how many new horses should you have coming into your string each season?
I think you need to add 2-3 to your string a year. You get injuries and old age and sometimes it takes horses a few years to get to the top level. So I always need to be trying and pushing the next lot.
What is the most important stage in the training of a polo horse?
I think the breaking-in is the most important part of the horse’s training. If you start them well, and a good breaker gives them to you doing everything they are asked, the rest is a time thing. It is important not to push them too quickly.
Which is, or has been, your favourite horse, and why?
From my own horses I would have to say True Colours, who I unfortunately had to put down a month ago. She was my best horse for the past 5 seasons. She was quick off the mark, tough in the ride offs and never gave up trying for me.The best horse I played this year was Twitter, owned by Jim Gilmore. She had everything, and was like a kids pony at the same time. She was so good to hit the ball off, and she got you to every play.
Which is the best polo horse you have seen play, and why?
Facundo Pieres’ horses always look amazing. I would love to have Cube. She just keeps going for him. Hopefully we will see her in the Open this year. Beim has a grey called Salsita that he always plays well on. She has a lot of power in the short plays.
Are there any horses you would like to try?
Juano Britos has a few that are very tough to play against.