17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to 18-year-old Filipina polo player Dani Eusebio. She’s currently one of the youngest competing players in her home country. Through supportive friends, mentors, and family, she’s able to compete in high goal matches – going against players twice her size and age.
1. Since when are you interested in horses?
“I’ve been interested since I was eight years old. It was around that time that my siblings would often play polo at home. We would also routinely spend our Sunday afternoons watching polo tournaments.”
2. How did you get into polo?
“Since my family plays polo, the sport has been a constant all throughout my childhood. One time, I requested I ride after watching my siblings play in a practice polo match in our backyard. After that ride, my dad encouraged me to take riding lessons. In a year or two, I started riding with a mallet.”
3. Who is your first coach?
“My first coach is Emmanuel Esquejo. He taught me how to trot when I was eight.”
4. Who are your heroes on the field?
“My ever-supportive dad, North Polo Club polo patron Jun Eusebio, is my first polo hero. Also, my heroes on the field are our grooms and horse trainers. I’m really thankful to Robert Esguerra, Indes Balonzo, Frankito Beltran, and Emmanuel Esquejo. They always cheer for me when I play polo, even when I miss the ball. They also patiently teach me how to improve as a better rider as well as better polo player. I’m thankful to them as they always have faith even in moments I doubt myself and hesitate. My polo friends, like Art Leong or Sonny Borromeo, are also on the list – they would often boost my morale whenever I would have bad games. Finally, my brother Benjamin, the person who pushes me in moments I feel like it’s time I give up.”
5. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?
“The best training tip I’ve ever received is to hit the ball while maximizing every relevant muscle in your body through form and timing. It’s literally giving your all to hit the ball by maximizing every part of your body, from your torso to your lower body.”
6. How do you bond with your horse?
“When I was in high school, I would bond with our horses by taking care of them first hand. I used to help clean or replace their bedding and clean and fill up their water containers. In the afternoons, the grooms and I would set them free on the fields and we would wash them after they played around. All the while, I was also assisted by our family grooms and horse trainers who patiently taught and encouraged me while I learned about horsecare.”
7. Best horse care tip?
“The best horse care tip that I learned from our grooms and trainers is that it’s necessary to get to know horses on a personal level as, like human beings, they each have their own personalities, habits, and quirks. By knowing them on a deeper level, one would know how to take care of them.”
8. Who is your polo bestfriend?
“Nobu Otake is another polo rider that I love to hook and bump when playing on the field.”
9. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?
“I like playing #1 the most. One reason is that playing #1 allows me to enter a state of flow. It’s when you’re going so fast that the moment focuses on the ball and you. In that instance, the connection between ball and player seems constant as everything else blurs. In those moments, I feel free from worries and fears as I become enchanted by the ball. I’ve never experienced a similar moment in playing defense, but bumping and hooking other riders is also undeniably so fun and exciting.”
10. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?
“Trust, for me, may be more important in the team. If one doesn’t trust their teammates, then the player is less likely to pass to them. Sometimes, when players have experienced playing with each other for a long time, one could already predict their next move through familiarity so the players do not necessarily have to explicitly communicate.”
11. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?
“For me, making sure to eat a full meal is a must. Since polo is a tiring and relatively aggressive sport, it is absolutely necessary to be healthy and energized in order to play polo effectively. Being healthy not only relates to the physical well-being, but to the emotional and mental aspect as well. All three are necessary to play effectively.”
12. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?
“I actually prefer mixed polo. I grew up playing mixed polo and I don’t think gender would necessarily influence the play. My group of friends in polo tend to be guys. They have always been supportive and it’s always so fun to play against them.”
13. For you, what makes polo the best sport?
“Polo is undoubtedly the best sport because of its addicting adrenaline rush. When one plays polo, one has to race to the polo ball and make sure to have proper form and timing when hitting the ball. All the while, one must make sure to defend the ball through bumping other players and strategizing. There is so much going on. Every second in polo matters. Another plus is that it’s a team sport. It feels great to achieve and train for success with a group of friends.”
14. What’s your best win throughout your career?
“The best win so far was when I scored my first goal through nearside forward. The player in front of me accidentally missed the ball while I was backing him up. Due to the positioning of the ball and my horse, the most logical move was nearside.”
15. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?
“Based on experience, people tend to confuse polo with the equestrian sport. When I say polo, they think of equestrianism.”
16. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?
“Mine would be Mia Cambiaso, as I think I would be able to learn a lot through her environment.”
17. Complete the sentence. “Polo makes me _______.”
“Polo makes me a stronger person.”
Photographs courtesy of Dani Eusebio