By Alejandra Ocampo
While the British season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PoloLine managed to meet up with one of the most important representatives of British polo, Charlie Hanbury.
Currently in England, Charlie is in isolation in his farm, with his family, due to the three week lockdown announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, awaiting the news from the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), the governing body of polo in England. Although the HPA has set May 1 as the date for the start of the season, the future is still uncertain.
Charlie Hanbury spoke to PoloLine about many issues – among others, Lovelocks’ qualification to play the República Argentina Cup before the autumn season was cancelled, but mostly he shared his concern about this terrible virus that has had a catastrophic effect on people’s lives around the world.
Tell us about Lovelocks Polo Team in Argentina. Why did you decide not to play with the team in the Autumn season?
I wasn’t able to make it out to Argentina, as I had other commitments here in England. We have a team of guys that are there working on the younger horses and introducing them to their first polo matches. It’s a great season to try horses and see which ones are ready for the main season or to travel abroad.
Although it was cancelled due the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you feel about the team qualifying for the República Cup?
It’s a great tournament and to qualify is always nice as you guarantee some good games. It is also a great reward for the team that work so hard making the horses to have the opportunity to play them in places like Palermo. I don’t know if an all English team has qualified before? For me, personally, it is great to see a team fully mounted by our breeding programme do so well and I am very proud of this.
What are you focusing on currently in England? What were you plans for the British season before the virus hit?
I have 15 horses in work and have polo from 10 to 18 goals confirmed all around the country. We also have horses with some of the guys that work with Lovelocks for the upcoming season to get them into matches and finish their training. Our first foals of the season have been born and we have some nice horses to be broken in this summer. I have also bought 5 horses from Argentina that have settled in well and I’m looking forward to playing them.
Let’s talk about the COVID-19 issue and the upcoming British season. The HPA has announced that the season will start on May 1. Do you think this is a possiblity?
Who knows? We are all in the same boat. There is nothing we can do. I am fortunate that my horses are at home so I can still ride them. We will have to see what the Government says, but there are much more important things than polo to worry about for now. We all need to come together and help fight this awful virus.
How do you see the situation in terms of polo, being in the middle of a three week lockdown?
It has been nice to look back and watch old games that you don’t normally have time to do. I have also been riding my horses at home with my family. It’s strange to say but a positive of the lockdown is it’s nice to spend so much time with them, it’s something that you take for granted but maybe shouldn’t.
If the season doesn’t start on May 1, do you think the HPA will be able to shorten the season or re-schedule the most important tournaments (such as the Queen’s Cup, British Open, Prince of Wales, Trippetts Challenge, Warwickshire Cup)?
I’m sure the HPA will be working hard to find a way for the season to work and I hope we can play but we have seen the effect this virus has had on the world and we will have to wait and see what the government says and how we can move forward. At the moment things are changing on a daily basis, so we will have to be patient. I have full faith that the HPA will protect its members to their best ability, and I hope that some form of a season will go ahead.
How are the players, grooms, vets, and clubs in the UK – who have already started preparing for the season – dealing with the fear of not knowing what will happen?
It’s not an easy time for anyone involved in the sport. It’s easy to forget how much goes on behind the scenes and how many people are involved. Everyone is currently in limbo waiting to see what happens. I am fortunate to have my horses at home so can continue to ride them but there are many who cannot do that. We are all playing a waiting game, but it’s important to remain positive in a time that is not so bright, and pray that we can beat this virus and then enjoy doing what we all love.