17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to 27-year-old polo player, Masu Eusebio-Cruz of the North Polo Club.
1. Since when are you interested in horses?
“To be honest, I wasn’t interested in horses when I started. I was just a kid given good horses and I didn’t appreciate them at first. Since all of my siblings started to ride, we needed more horses. My dad, Atty. Jun Eusebio, started buying green horses. Green horses are usually young ponies that need training. That’s when I learned to appreciate what I had and work hard on what I was given. I think that’s the point I began to like horses because I had to work on my ponies and find ways for us to connect. I started to celebrate small wins such as making it out alive after my young pony started bucking out of the blue. Every practice was a learning experience for my horse and I. To be a good polo player, you need to be a good rider—there is no shortcut. That’s why my dad made me ride for one year before giving me a polo mallet. Just like people, every horse is different and unique. On good days, they cooperate, and on some days, they just wanna do their own thing. That’s the beauty of it. You have no idea what’s gonna happen and that is what makes me love my horses and polo.”
2. How did you get into polo?
“When I was 14, my dad forced me and my brother to ride because we were overweight. He made it mandatory that I ride so I could be active and lose weight. He has always been the sporty type and he encouraged us to be fit and have an active lifestyle. He didn’t foresee the expenses of having four kids playing though (laughs). Four years later, I still didn’t lose weight so my dad decided to pay me if I lose 30 lbs. I got my prize money in four months. I started loving polo when the club grew because we got to play with other players. Polo is limited in the Philippines and when the players started to grow, it became more enjoyable and fun. I started looking forward to polo games and the after polo.”
3. Who is your first coach?
“My dad was my first coach. My first horses—Maravilla, Princess, and Chiquita—were also his. Whenever he’d get invites to play at other clubs, he’d always ask if his kids could play on his behalf. He has always been the supportive dad who pushed us to be better. During polo matches, you’d always find him by the boards watching and fighting with the umpire.”
4. Who are your heroes on the field?
“Players who play 3 and 4 are my heroes on the field because they are the ones working hard to pass me the ball. Trainers who make sure my horses are fit and safe to ride are also my heroes. They observe how I play and let me know if there is anything I can do to improve. They honestly know my horses more than I do because they spend the most time with them. My mom, Pinky Eusebio, is also my hero because she’s the one who takes me to the hospital for x-ray whenever I have a bad fall. She was also the one who took care of me when I crashed while my horse was on full gallop. I still have no memory of how I got home. My last memory was I was trying to get the ball and my horse tripped. When I woke up, my mom was crying next to my bed.”
5. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?
“When you fall, stand up and get back on the horse. Don’t quit. I have fallen countless times and my experiences made me a good rider. I have been riding for over a decade and until now, I still get back on the horse after I fall. There is always the risk of falling, but every polo player is willing to take that risk just to feel the adrenaline of the sport. That’s how addictive polo is.
6. How do you bond with your horse?
“My siblings and I used to go to the stables everyday when we were kids during summer vacation to visit our horses and give them a bath. During the rainy season, horses are on vacation and we trail ride around the farm to exercise them.”
7. Best horse care tip?
“Make sure they are well provided with what they need. Our horses are well-fed, we buy vitamins, provide good shelter, regular exercise, and we have an on-call vet who checks on them. During summer days, they take a bath five times a day to prevent colic. During the rainy season, my dad has a pasture area so our horses can stretch and move around.”
8. Who is your polo best friend?
“My first polo best friend is my sister, Nicole. She’s the only female polo player other than me at our club. Let’s just say I had no choice. Years later, I brought a boy named Patrick, forced him to try polo, and now I’m required to accompany him to practice and join all polo games because he became my husband. There is no escape from this sport. I married a guy who is as crazy as my dad when it comes to horses.”
9. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?
“I usually play #2. My job is to protect #1, who is usually Nicole. I take out anyone who will try to steal the ball from her and be her reliable back-up. She does the same when the ball is with me. My sister and I have fast horses which makes #1 and #2 a good position for the two of us. We might look cute and tiny on the field but we play hard.”
10. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?
“I think trust is more important because it takes trust to pass the ball to your teammate and believe that he/she can take it to the goal. There is no such thing as one man team and polo is a team sport which requires trust. Good communication forms a stronger team. It doesn’t matter if the opposing team are all better players. If my team blends well, that’s already a head start. Communication is so important that my siblings and I have codes already. They came in handy when we played at Polo Club de Chantilly in France.”
11. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?
“Shades to protect my eyes from the dirt and pads to protect my elbows from flying balls. I learned the importance of elbow pads the hard way. I was hit right at the elbow on Valentine’s day by our strongest player. My elbow was purple and I couldn’t lift my arm. It was so bad I thought I was done for the season. After my accident, everyone started wearing elbow pads.”
12. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?
“I prefer mixed polo because it is more challenging to play with guys. We don’t go easy on one another. I bump my husband without hesitation. We still talk after the game. He usually approaches me first. I’d love to try playing with all girls but we are quite limited in the country because polo is a male-dominated sport.”
13. For you, what makes polo the best sport?
“The feeling I get when I’m on full gallop trying to bring the ball to the goal and making the goal is priceless. Fighting hard and knowing I did everything I could gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
14. What’s your best win throughout your career?
“I have played many tournaments and I have no best win. I consider winning the tournaments I learned the most from because those games made me a better player.”
15. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?
“That it’s easy to play polo because you just need to ride a horse and hit the ball with a stick. I have been playing for 14 years, and until now, I still have a lot to learn. There are those days when I just can’t hit the ball right.”
16. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?
“Mia Cambiaso because she probably has the best horses fit for a female player. Her dad, Adolfo Cambiaso, is the number one player in the world and he clones his best horses. Having access to these super horses can really make a difference because the outcome will depend on my ability and how I’ll maximize my resources to win.”
17. Complete the sentence: “The magic of polo is ____________.”
“The magic of polo is it brings out the best in me.”