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Beanie Bradley’s Polo Journey

Beanie Bradley’s Polo Journey

Beanie Bradley
Beanie Bradley

POLO LADY empowers women of all ages. Take a look at our interview with a beautiful and talented little Polo Lady.

First of all, please tell us about yourself.

My name is Beanie Bradley. I am born in West Sussex England on July 23, 2004. I’m very competitive in sports and I want to be a professional polo player. I love to compete and my ponies are everything to me.

“I live on a grassland farm close to Cowdray Park Polo Club. Every spring, the lanes are full of ponies being exercised. I live with my mom and dad, three dogs, two cats, chickens and ducks, two pigs, one sheep, two horses, and my six ponies. We are an outdoorsy, sporty family.

“I go to Seaford College School. I am part of their sports development scheme and they support me as a young athlete. We play to our ability and not just our age. I’m in all the A teams. When I’m up early I ride to school, it’s a 10-minute trot from my house. Sometimes, my folks will surprise me at the end of the day, I come out of school to find my pony waiting for me in the car park. Seaford has been known for having successful polo teams in the past and we are excited about rejoining the SUPA tournaments again this year. We are debuting for the first time an all-girls team in March.

“When I was four years old, watching the Olympics for the first time, I dreamt of being a Team GB medalist.”

Beanie Bradley foot mallet

Who introduced you to polo?

“I was eight and on the edge of giving up, having been thrown off many times by Betty, my uncooperative Welsh. My pony club instructor Rachael Wilson suggested I try polo because she knew I love all ball sports, especially tennis.

“Going to the polo rally was a great move. Even though Betty was not that keen to get involved, she was okay with the stick and neck reining. We started just trotting to the ball. It was fantastic. Having a ball to focus on, I was in my element and she loved being out on the grass. Soon, we were off cantering everywhere.”

How many times a week do you train and where?

“I keep fit by playing a lot of sports at school. I also work on my core strength and I run. I ride five days a week, ending by competing in show jumping or SJ schooling training. On one of my days off, my two show jumpers are exercised at the Aqua treadmill, and then we both have one day off together.

“I also have dressage lessons. After school, I train with my mother. We get on well as I know she is looking at every detail for me. When the lighter evenings are here, I will be hacking my polo ponies, taking my ponies to the Gallops at Coombelands Racing stables and once my hitting cage is built, I will be training in there after school as well. When I’m not riding, I’m always doing some sport or shooting netball hoops at home after I’ve finished evening stables. I’ve also just started pilates and I use a balance board.”

Beanie Bradley award
Beanie Bradley show jumping
Beanie Bradley show jumping 2

How many horses do you have? Do you ride all of them?

“Currently, I have three polo ponies. My mother has a good eye for a pony and all of them are amazing.

“Individually, they have taught me so much. Innes, 12 years old, is my bae—a warrior, great in defense, and quick to turn. She’s fast and always gives me her best. She’s gentle and very pretty.

“Tjana is a well-bred eleven-year-old, my newest pony. She has really nice paces. She is a little bit green. I’m going to work on her schooling to get her to listen to me and relax to my lighter aids and my leg and seat. She is solid and fast but stops for me and will keep her line in the hardest of ride offs. She’s also very pretty.

“Luna, my pony club Handley Cross pony is a pocket rocket. She will do anything for me. She jumps/hunts but polo is her thing. She loves it. We play in club chukkas and I’m sad to be growing up and getting taller. She is exactly what I am looking for in my next polo pony. All our horses are at home which keeps Team Bradley very busy.

“I also have two incredible show jumping ponies. My 138 show jumper just turned 20 years old and she’s still at the top. I jumped her at Olympia London International Horse show last December. Preparation is key, warming up, cooling down, and keeping the training interesting with hacking. I know everything about them when competing, using water buckets so I know how much they have drunk to the droppings in their stables, and their feed and supplements are important. I try to keep them as natural as possible. They all get time out in their paddocks.”

Beanie Bradley show jumper

When was women’s polo first introduced to you?

“I was ten years old. My parents surprised me with my first polo lesson on a proper polo pony at Apes Hill. I was finishing my lesson and a lady player with beautiful long blonde hair, wearing pink elbow pads and carrying pink sticks, asked me how I like the ponies. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she looked amazing.’ She told me about ladies’ polo tournaments, ‘Lots of women play polo seriously. You were really good—a natural.’ She fixed it for me to play in a chukka with her.  I was hooked! Even today, she sends me messages of support. So thank you, Linda Williams. I need to get my own pink elbow pads, but I have my pinks sticks. Polo Splice makes my sticks fit my hand grip and in the beginning, made them extra light. I’ve also got to blame the Fonseca Family, Papa Hugo, and of course, Rosie at Hurtwood Academy. She is so passionate about children’s Polo. They have seen something in me and have given me so much support. I rode her legend of a pony Minnie Mouse in the PC Championships 2016.”

Beany Bradley off to a match
Beany Bradley on a horse
Beany Bradley in a polo match

Do you prefer to play women’s polo or mixed polo?

“I enjoy watching the ladies’ polo and how they play tactically together. There does seem to be a difference, perhaps a more free-running game. Not as fast or erratic as the men’s sometimes. I haven’t yet experienced playing in a ladies’ tournament. I will be in Barbados in April and will have my hat and boots ready just in case a handy -2 is needed.

Many women say there is a lack of respect from men during the mixed practice or tournament. What advice do you have for them? 

“Players I know treat me the same. What I have experienced is that people expect my male peers to be better than me, so automatically they get preference. Recently, I was hoping to be chosen by the HPA to train in SA. They considered taking me but felt it would be too difficult to take just one girl in a group of 12 boys. I was going to miss out on a brilliant opportunity to train for nine days with some of my teammates. I was gutted!

“Getting into trouble with my parents, I posted on my Instagram page: ‘I may be a girl, but I’ve got the balls for polo,’ and, ‘If my name was Ben, it would be different!’

“I was overwhelmed to receive loads of likes and messages from female players and supporters of ladies’ polo. I learned that ladies’ polo is a global family of hard-working, supportive horsewomen, passionate about their polo, telling me to stick at it and work harder. Even the brilliant Hazel Jackson was so kind and sent me messages of support.   

“It all turned out positive for me in the end. I was offered a place, but only two days before departure as my friend, who was going, had broken his arm. It was too short notice, as I had committed to a show jumping competition for school.

“I went on to win and qualified to jump for my county West Sussex at the National NSEA Champs in 90cm and 1m classes in April.

“If more girls have the confidence with their ability to take their polo further, all being equal, we will get the chance to train next winter in SA. Getting to actually play with and train along with the boys is what we need. I do want to thank the HPA for considering me in the first place.

“I am determined to work hard and I’m ready to demonstrate. I will make the most of every opportunity to promote polo for girls and young kids.”

Beanie Bradley in the field
Beanie Bradley in action
Beanie Bradley zoom

What would you like to change in women’s polo? What more do you want to see in women’s polo?

“If I had to change one thing in women’s polo, it would be that each tournament needs to have a team with a -2 HCP 13-year-old girl playing—me. Also, finding a decent pair of whites that fit—I would design them with a nice silk seat liner to avoid them sometimes sticking to you.

What are your favorite tournaments and do you have a favorite polo memory or story?

My favorite tournament other than the Pony Club National Champs is, without a doubt, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Semi-Finals Day. The tension is so exciting!

“The British Ladies Open—I would love to play in that!

“Often, my dad will collect me early from school and we will drive round to watch some of the weekday afternoon games at Amersham grounds at Cowdray. It’s fab to leave school and five minutes later be watching Cambiaso or Facundo play and see their ponies.

“I love to surf and my auntie and uncle took me to Cornwall for my birthday to Watergate Bay for some beach polo. That were fun memories.”

Do you take a rest from polo? What do you do? Where’s your favorite holiday destination? What do you like doing when you are not playing? Do you have any hobbies?

“In winter, I have a rest from polo. I continue riding with my show jumping ponies but don’t really compete much over January and February. I play Hockey then, for my school and for Chichester and Sussex County.

“I concentrate on my riding, generally with training and competing, for show jumping and arena eventing. I enjoy netball, football, and play tennis.

“Favorite holiday destination is anywhere I get a chance to play polo and tennis. We also love to ski as a family. My heart is in Africa—I have been supporting fundraising to save the since I was six years old. Botswana is our favorite place. It would be awesome to play polo on the Makgadikgadi Pans with meerkats watching.”

What do you want to achieve in polo in the future? 

“I would like to achieve recognition for my equestrian skills and horsemanship. All my personal goals and dreams come after that. To see my name promoting British polo on and off the field. And if I can inspire other young girls just like me to start playing, that would be awesome. Also, to lift the Gold Cup as ‘the homegrown local girl who grew up watching polo at Cowdray’ would be something.” 

Beanie Bradley doodle
Beanie Bradley doodle 2

Which women polo player do you admire and why?

“For me, Hazel Jackson is a great role model for young polo players. I hope to play with her one day. She’s the total package and her game is just getting better and better. Claire Brougham had the best master class with her. She is very powerful for her size, having come from an eventing background. I admire her horsemanship.

How do you envision the continuing growth of women’s polo over the next few years?

“Youth tournaments help the development and sponsorship supporting Pony Club Polo. If more girls have the confidence to go to a polo club and academies to try it, they will realize they are already more accomplished with their riding. Then it’s just practice. Social media is great for seeing images of girls playing around the world and tournaments attracting more spectators. It’s definitely growing in the sporting/social calendar. I’m excited to be involved in ladies polo in the U.K. And I really hope polo is brought back to the Olympics for 2024 and I’m a part of it! That’s my dream.”

Keep on dreaming high, Bradley! We’re rooting for you!

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