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Getting To Know Polo Star Hazel Jackson

Getting To Know Polo Star Hazel Jackson

Katya Prunkova

I am a very optimistic person and I strongly believe that you can attract positive outcomes. I love the saying–‘Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it’.

Hazel Jackson Casual with Horse

First of all, please tell us about yourself.

I am 25 years old, and I live in the New Forest, a national park on the South Coast of England, about an hour and a half south of London. I grew up there and attended the local school in my area.

Then, I studied for three years at Brockenhurst College, where I qualified as a personal trainer and sports masseuse. Growing up in ‘the forest,’ meant that my family was very ‘outdoorsy’ and we have always had horses in the family; my parents hunted and my mum also won the local point-point once.

When and how did your Polo history start? 

I didn’t come from your average Polo family, my dad had a few horses and started to play locally in the New Forest back in the ’90s, and from that, my brother, sister, and I all loved it–so we all ended up playing years of Pony Club polo. I had my first Jorrocks game when I was about 8 years old. We had some tiny ponies in the family, which were handed down from my brother and sister each year after they had outgrown them. Unfortunately, my dad passed away in 2000. Otherwise, I would have liked to think that he would have carried on.

Who originally introduced you to Polo? 

I guess between my parents helping me to knock a ball around our tiny field at home and through the New Forest Pony Clubthat was where I became addicted.

Why Polo: Are you passionate about horses or the sport? Is it the genes or love at first sight? 

To be honest, a mixture of all–those who know me well, know that I am extremely competitive. Plus, horses have always been a part of my life.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something so unique and incredible about this sport. I am ridiculously passionate about playing and have been from a young age. It’s very difficult to put a finger on it. However, I guess most of you who are reading this know the exact same feeling I’m talking about when you’re playing.

Hazel Jackson Back

What did you learn from polo? Has polo changed you somehow?  

I have learned a lot from polo in my life. From a young age, I have been quite independentalways traveling alone to different countries to play and work within the sport, being surrounded by different people, and new cultures. I don’t think it has changed me a lot, but it has made me very ambitious. I have been extremely lucky with the opportunities and help I have received in my career. It has made me realize that if you work hard enough for what you really want, anything is possible.

How do you feel about being one of the best lady players? Is it hard for you to meet expectations?

I honestly would never consider myself as one of the best. There are so many talented players out there and I still have so much more to learn. I look up to players such as Nina Clarkin, Sunny Hale, Sarah Wiseman, and Lia Salvo. They all have a lot of consistency and have all achieved so much. Let’s see what the future holds, I hope to be up there with them at some point.

Do you play in women tournaments or male as well? What do you prefer and why? Is the atmosphere of the game different? Where do you feel more comfortable and having more fun? 

I play in both, and they both have their perks. On one hand, I love playing with men because they challenge you more and it makes me work harder. I probably learn the most from playing alongside men because it really pushes me to my physical limits. I have learned a lot about playing defensively through mixed polo.

On the other hand, I adore being the main player in Ladies Polocontrolling my team, using a lot more of my ball skills, using my head more, taking penalties, etc. There is a lot more responsibility and pressure being one of the better players on the team, and I feel this always makes me perform better.

Hazel Jackson in a game

What is it like for you to be a woman in the men’s world of polo? 

I think it is nearly exactly the same, as long as the men have enough respect for you in the field. The only thing which really gets me is the fact that the high goal polo would never consider giving a girl the chance to play, there are always spots for 0, 1, and 2 goalers in the English high goal season. However, I have never once heard of a girl given the chance to try this out. I don’t understand and it frustrates me.

If women want to invite you to play, is it possible to organize this?

Yes, of course! It’s very easy to organize. Throughout my career, I have played in so many different countries such as New Zealand, Barbados, Argentina, America, Italy, France, Dubai, Singapore, Ibiza, Malaysia, even South Africa. That’s the beauty of this sport and modern technology!

How often do you train? How many horses do you change over when you are training?

I usually train 5-6 days a week. I love using Fitness for Polo. They are bringing out an application with all polo-related exercisesit’s brilliant! In Argentina, I have enough time to meet with a personal trainer and practice yoga. In England, I look after my own horses, so I don’t have as much free time during the height of the season. I look after a string of five playing horses and two young ones, so I will ride, play chukkas, and stick and ball nearly every day.

Hazel Jackson Practice

Give me an example of a typical training day, what do you do? 

During the season, I usually have between two or three matches per week. I learned last year that playing chukkas or riding don’t count as enough exercise for one day, so if I can squeeze in a workout or a run, then that is a bonus. Every day is different for me. On non-game days, I exercise my horses twice a day. I would take them for a set plus single or stick and ball.

I love working in an Argentine routineworking in the mornings and afternoons. This way, I can have a few hours off over lunch and I swear by my siestas! In Argentina, I have been working within my boyfriend’s organization. Luckily, we have some grooms which enable me to stick and ball or ride up to 6-8 horses per day if I want and train!

I would love to be able to have this routine in England one day. Fingers crossed.

What is your advice on how to organize a typical stick and ball everyday training? 

For me, the mornings are always best to stick and ball. Making sure that you feel fresh and motivated. Always try and aim to achieve a specific “something” per session, for example–stopping with the ball, backhand, penalties, hitting from a standstill.

Each year, I really aim to improve one specific shot. If you have someone to help you with penalties and video you in slow motion, that produces the best feedback, in my opinion. Setting up cones for accuracy is marvelous. However, stick and balling at speed is the most important sector for me.

How many ponies do you own and where are they?

I own two horses in England, both are off the race track. In Argentina, I was given one as a birthday present from my boyfriend and I named him Kevin! It made me laugh last year, as for the first time in my life I captained the English Ladies’ side, and I had accomplished this with just two horses to my name. It just shows that anything is possible and I feel that if something is not served to you on a plate, you will always want it more.

Who supports you?

Off the field, Ivan and my mum are always there whether I’m winning or losing. Ivan has taught me heaps over the past few years and my mum has always supported me and encouraged me to follow my dreams.

In which country do you play the most? What are your favorite women tournaments and why?  

I always play in the English and Argentine Polo Season. I love them both and they offer a wide variety of ladies tournaments on some of the most immaculate fields.

Some of my favorite women’s tournaments have to be in Chantilly, France (September), Houston, Texas, America (November), and Battle of the Sexes in Barbados (February). They are all played in the most stunning locations. Furthermore, they offer some of the most fun, welcoming and spectacular cultures. Most importantly, they are always super competitive and we play on some of the best fields in the world.

How many tournaments do you play every year and how do you organize to play them? 

I play polo usually about 11 months of the year. Luckily, the English and Argentine season go hand in hand together, finishing one and starting the next. I play one tournament nearly every or every other week during both of those seasons. The ladies’ tournaments fit in here and there but of course, I have to sacrifice some tournaments sometimes. However, once I visit a country and build a good relationship with a patron, I tend to go back every year whenever possible. I think it is very important to be loyal in this sport.

Do you have a team? Was it difficult to put together? 

To be honest, we have a different team in nearly every tournament I play due to different playing levels and the availability of players. With Coombe Place in England last year, we made an unbelievable 4 and 6 goal team and played the same team in several tournaments, which meant we improved each tournament, it was very successful.

It’s difficult if you make a team last minute. I think it’s very important to book players in advance and get them to play as much as possible with the same people. Usually, you will only get better when playing together.

What has been your greatest triumph to date? 

Being the captain of the English Ladies Polo Team last year in South Africa. We won the test match and being able to help choose the team felt very rewarding. The team consisted of Emma Boers, Lottie Lamacraft, Claire Brougham, and myself.

What do you want to achieve in polo? 

Realistically, I would love to be a talented 2-goal player with a solid string of horses and to be one of the best female players in the world.

In my dreams, be chosen to play in any 15-goal tournament or higher and one day, to play alongside my idol Hilario Ulloa. There’s no harm in being optimistic!

Hazel Jackson in action

What advice would you give to women who are thinking of taking up the sport? 

Work and try hard so you are always respected. Know that anything is possible and NEVER stop learning.

In the saddle during the game, what would be your main tips for an advanced woman player? 

Use your head. Let your horse go fast but keep your head calm, so you can think clear and clever.

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

Shock them! Show them your true talent, beat them in plays, win ride-offs, play hard–then see if they still don’t respect you.

Hazel Jackson playing

Do you think women polo must be fun or should it be a serious, hard sport?  

Both! It can be fun and serious at the same time and I think this helps with the different levels. The lower level can be more relaxed and more fun for everyone, but I strongly believe that the higher level should be competitive.

What do you like doing when you are not playing?  

Travelingvisiting my friends, trying new things or anything beach related. I also love eating sushi and chocolates!

You travel a lot. Which country do you like the most? 

That is a tough one as every country holds something special in my eyes. I love specific things in so many different cultures. I literally couldn’t choose just one.

Barbados was paradise, New Zealand was so untouched, so pure. France has Paris! Ibiza offers stunning beaches and Texas felt like home after one day. The Argentines are so passionate while Malaysians have ‘take-out masseurs’ on call. I’m yet to investigate Rome, plus I need to visit my family in Zambia.

The list is endless! I guess in the future I may be able to answer that one.

If it’s not a secret, can we ask you about your family? 

My mum Mo lives in Hampshire and she takes care of our little dog Penny. I have a brother called Simon (30), he is an accountant and works all over Europe. My sister Hilary (27) is more like my best friend, she works for a retirement company. She also comes to Argentina nearly every year to visit me. We think exactly the same, plus she is hilarious. I love being at home in the summer as I spend so much time away.

What is your favorite shop for buying your polo attire and equipment?

I shop from every store! My hat is from Cavalier, my elbow guards from La Martina, my stick bag from Casablanca, my goggles from Polo Splice, and finally my jeans and polo clothing from Akuma. I, especially, love any polo equipment a little bit out there, the more wild or unusual, the better.

Off the field, I love to wear J-Brand jeans and items I pick up from high street brands in different countries. I would love my own Mulberry handbag one day!

Every year, more and more women come to polo. Do you think polo FEM has a fantastic future?

I think the Women’s Polo world is constantly growing. It has enabled women players to make a living from the sport and as long as the younger generations of female players have something to aim for, I think it holds a very positive future. It helps that tournaments all over the world are so accessible and there is always a good vibe throughout.

We would love your opinion of our new magazine and indeed welcome your comments.

I think the magazine is superb, it covers so many different aspects within the sport. It’s a really interesting read and it has a great image. It’s been a pleasure to take part in it, and I wish you all the best for the future.

Thanks for talking to us, Hazel!

Photo credits to Katerina Morgan, Evelina Jakovlevskaja, Sophie White, Pablo Ramirez, Nacho Corbalan, Guillermina

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