Royal Leamington Spa Polo Club is attempting to bring the sport of polo, traditionally an upper class activity, to a wider section of society by allowing players to compete on pantomime horses.
Sometimes known as ‘the sport of kings’, polo is seen by many as elitist because players generally come from wealthy families. This is at least partly due to the tendency amongst poorer members of society to concentrate on trying to feed and clothe their children, rather than buy a horse for them to ride. It is this obstacle which the move to allow pantomime horses is designed to overcome.
‘We’re aware that while poor people may not have horses they do sometimes have as many as two friends, who could dress up as a horse and be ridden around a field.’ said President of the RLS Polo Club, Jonathan Stares-Hune, who hopes that this initiative will bring in new players from different social backgrounds, in turn attracting new spectators to the sport.
With pantomime season over it should be relatively straightforward for would-be players to get their hands on a horse costume, and the club are looking at adding in some cheaper seating so any new spectators can be safely segregated from the usual audience. Mr Stares-Hune explained, ‘We’re hoping for bigger crowds, but not everybody wants to mix with riff-raff and we have to be careful not to alienate our existing customers after all.’
A trial has already taken place in order to identify any teething problems with the plans. This saw a team of four players from a local council estate soundly beaten as they struggled to come to terms with the game.
One new player, taking part while banned from his local football league for attempting to strangle an opponent, had mixed reactions to his first polo experience.
‘I quite enjoyed it but there were definitely some problems. Having the front and back halves of a pantomime horse attempt to walk in opposite directions might be amusing on stage, but when you’re sat on top of it and there’s a bloke galloping towards you swinging a mallet it suddenly doesn’t seem so funny.’
‘And unfortunately a fat lad from Coal Lane ripped a hole in his costume just below the knee, and had to be destroyed by a vet.’