17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to Nicole Eusebio, the only female polo player in the Philippine Polo Team lineup. The 29-year-old Filipina hails from the North Polo Club, located in Bulacan, north of the country’s center, Manila.
1. Since when are you interested in horses?
“I became interested in horses when I was seven years old. Someone gifted my dad two horses during that time. To be able to take care of the horses, he converted our garage into stables. Eventually, my dad bought a small farm for the horses. I started learning how to ride when I was eight.”
2. How did you get into polo?
“Growing up, my dad played polo in Manila Polo Club and in Patron Inigo Zobel’s farm in Calatagan, Batangas. We always watched his tournaments, which were held on Sundays. Whenever there’s no school, I’d join him in his practices in Calatagan. It was a four-hour drive from our home in Pulilan. Young kids did not usually enjoy long drives; as for me, I knew every single trip was worth it when I finally saw the horses in the stables. I first held a mallet when I was 12 years old. I remember I had gray polo ponies named Princess and Garcita. Three years later, my dad would pick me up from school to catch up on practices in the Manila Polo Club. During that time, I was given the opportunity to play in a tournament. Through the support of my parents, I progressed in my polo career. I played more games in Manila Polo Club, Hacienda Bigaa, Global Port, and even in Polo Club de Chantilly in France.”
3. Who is your first coach?
“My first coach was my dad. He taught me how to trot, canter, and stick and ball. He was very patient and consistently encouraged me. He would drive me to the farm and we would ride together. Overtime, I built my confidence from the times I fell off the horse and yet decided to get back on the saddle. My father taught me to never go home afraid of being back on the saddle after a fall. When he decided to put up his own field here in our hometown, it was a bold move. My father is a visionary. Who knew that, in time, North Polo Club will become the future of polo. He has produced so many new players in Pulilan and these young blood will continue the polo legacy in the country. Polo is a male-dominated sport, but because of North Polo Club, more female players were made. Because of that, I could say that we are breaking the stereotype. We’re adding the Philippines in the women polo map. I believe we’re making an impact.”
4. Who are your heroes on the field?
“I’ve always considered my father to be my polo hero. He nurtured me to become one of the leading female polo players in the country. He has always been very supportive. Growing up, he would always pass the ball to me. I think this is the reason why I became a shooter. He’d give up his best horses just to provide his kids with competent horses. Another hero on the field is my brother, Benjamin Eusebio. He is an admirable player. He played in the 30th SEA Games held last 2019. When Benjamin gets near the ball of the opponent, I always knew he could steal the ball and pass it to his sisters. He always pushed other players in Pulilan to improve and play competently.”
5. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?
“The best training tip I ever received was from my polo idol Anthony Garcia. He is the highest-rated Filipino polo player. He was our coach in the SEA Games 2019. I’ve always remembered when he said, ‘Don’t tell them. Show them.’”
6. How do you bond with your horse?
“Bonding entails spending a significant amount of time training with your horse. Horses are majestic athletes; each one is unique. They have a mind of their own. But what’s beautiful about it is that they listen to their rider.”
7. Best horse care tip?
“Always check your horses before and after riding.”
8. Who is your polo best friend?
“My polo best friends are my siblings—Masu, Jam, and Daniela. We grew up playing polo together.”
9. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?
“I love playing as #1. The best part for me would always be galloping flat out towards the goal after receiving the pass from my teammates. So don’t let this 5’1 petite frame fool you!”
10. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?
“I think these go hand in hand. To be able to work as a team, you need to communicate. Proper and effective communication eventually cultivates trust among the players. I learn to trust that my teammates can perform the roles. After all, polo is a team sport.”
11. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?
“Safety is always the priority. I always make sure I wear my helmet, shades, elbow pads, and knee guards.”
12. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?
“All my life I’ve played mixed polo. I never got to experience playing an all-women’s polo. It would be a very exciting experience for me to have that opportunity.”
13. For you, what makes polo the best sport?
“Polo fuels me with adrenaline. Polo is fast. Polo is dangerous. Polo provided an avenue for me to be a gamechanger and be inspirational to other women. It’s a fulfilling purpose.”
14. What’s your best win throughout your career?
“I won a game at the Polo Club de Chantilly in France in 2019. I consider it as the best because it was a time when I went beyond my comfort zone. I did not know my horses nor my teammates. I was on a foreign polo field. Despite that, we managed to play well and proved ourselves.”
15. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?
“That polo is too physical for ladies, and that we should try equestrian instead.”
16. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?
“I would like to be Mia Cambiaso. It would be a great experience playing among the best players in the world and being able to ride super horses.”
17. Complete the sentence. “I love polo because..”
“I love polo because it means family time. We’re a big family of polo players. My father plays. All my siblings play and even my brother-in-law, Patrick Cruz, plays. Most especially, my fiancé, TJ Fulgencio, fell in love not just with me but also with the sport.”