A POLO LADY interview with one of the strongest women’s polo players, Annabel McNaught-Davis.

She shares with us her opinions and advice and the more we learn from such a talented and professional polo player, the better our polo!

First of all, please tell us about yourself.  Where are you from, what type of upbringing did you have, and where were you educated? 

My name is Annabel McNaught-Davis, I am 28 years old, from London and brought up in a completely non equestrian family and educated at Roedean School in Brighton.

 Who introduced you to polo?

I was introduced to polo by accident when my local stables in London closed down and I went to help out at Ham Polo Club during the school holidays. I had no idea what polo was about at the time! 

When was women’s polo first introduced to you?

 My first time playing ladies’ polo was probably playing the ladies’ section of the school’s tournaments – I started our school team and we enjoyed it and were successful on the circuit.

You are a leader in women’s polo, your opinion is respected and we would really like to know how you achieved this success. What is your handicap now? What was the price you had to pay, I mean did you work out a lot in the gym? Or were you riding your horses for hours and hours? Did you train a lot or maybe you just have a natural talent for polo?

Currently I am 6 goals in ladies’ handicap and 1 goal in mixed. I would ideally like to get to 8 goals and 2 goals – I am always trying to improve. From the age of 17 I have immersed myself in polo and it has taken me years to conquer all aspects of the sport as there are so many factors involved. As my family are completely non related to polo, it has been a lot harder to learn and get a good base of horses – as most of them I have had to make myself. Before polo I did dressage and jumping which I think helped me enormously. But I spend my life either riding, running, in the gym or on the yard doing something. To get anywhere in polo I think you have to be one hundred percent committed. 

top women polo player

What is polo for you: hobby or hard work?

Polo is my passion and career. 

 Do you prefer women’s polo or mixed polo? Why? Is the atmosphere  and the energy of the place  is  important to you?

I like playing both but obviously they have different qualities. I like being treated as an equal in mixed polo which is something that has been difficult for girls to achieve. Since I have been playing, ladies’ polo has evolved massively which has made it more enjoyable and I think a lot of girls do not perhaps realise the quality of ladies’ polo now. Mixed polo I always enjoy and I think it is important for girls to play against the best players possible in order to improve.

 Who has been your hardest opponent? 

Nina Vestey is always tough!

People still see the women’s polo as a “strange” polo. Do you think it’s a fair reaction? Do you think that women’s polo is really as weak as they say? 

Obviously, ladies’ polo is still a minority sport but with the daughters of high goal players beginning to play official tournaments and more sponsors, tournaments and publicity, I really believe that ladies’ polo is becoming more popular and accepted.

We ask everyone these questions, as we would like to support women polo players:  many women say there is a lack of respect from men during the mixed practice/tournament. What advice do you have for them? 

I think this is something that all girls will encounter at some point during their polo careers. I treat men as equals and, in general, once they realise you can play, they treat you the same. If not, I do my best to beat them to make them realise that girls can play polo! 

Annabel McNaught-Davis

Who works with your young horses, you or your petiseros ? If it is you, how do you work with them?

Both myself and my two grooms break in and train all my young horses between us. It is a long process but one I very much enjoy.

Which is your best pony and why?

My best current ponies are Azafata and Lujan – both of whom I made myself. They both give me the feeling of being able to do anything and always give me their all.

 If women want to invite you to play, is this possible to organize? How would they contact you? How would they organize to play with you?  

I am always trying to promote ladies’ polo and am more than happy to give advice to anyone interested in playing. The best way to reach me is via email –annabelmcnd@gmail.com – as I travel frequently.

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

I would like to see it become more popular and professional in England as we have a lot of talented players and yet the organisation is way behind Argentina and America. The HPA does not even have anyone in charge of ladies’ polo. In general, I would like it to become a more respected part of the sport and for ladies that have perhapolo ladyps previously not enjoyed playing with girls, to try again as the sport has evolved hugely over the last few years and the level has risen.

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

There are quite a few!! Probably one of my happiest moments was winning at Palermo for the first time with friends. Playing against Cambiaso and his daughter in their first tournament together, days before he won the Open last year, was amazing. And playing on ground one on ponies I have bred and made was a dream come true.

In which country do you play mostly?

I now spend the majority of my time in Argentina.

Are you superstitious in polo?

I am a bit superstitious! I think a lot of players are, to some extent. I might have a pair of lucky socks for a few weeks but nothing more than that.

Do you have a sponsor? Who supports you? What polo brand do you represent?

I currently do not have any sponsors – it is something I would be interested in doing as I think that there are more and more commercial opportunities arising within the sport. At the moment I support myself via playing, breeding, making ponies, working for other players and running the bed and breakfast at my farm.

Tell us about your life. Do you travel a lot, where is your home now and family?

I have a pretty unusual life! I have been to Argentina for the past ten winters and have travelled non stop in between. Home is now Argentina although my family still live in London and I have friends all over the world.

 What is your diet? What do you eat normally to be fit? 

I try to be as healthy as possible – I do believe you are what you eat – but I probably put more effort into my exercise rather than diet.

Do you have muscle pain after a tournament? If so, what do you do to reduce the pain?

I am a big believer in physiotherapy, massage and exercise to sort out any problems, occasionally, with the help of anti-inflammatories but, in general, I try to sort out any problems myself.

 Do you practice yoga or another relaxation technique? What is relaxation for you?

Relaxation for me is spending time with my friends. Yoga is something I would like to try. 

Do you take any energizing cocktails or vitamins to maintain your physical condition? 

I try to eat as healthily as possible and avoid processed foods. But I do not take any supplements.

 Do you have a rest from polo? What do you do? Your best holiday destination? 

I spend a few weeks after Christmas at my farm without playing, which is my holiday time. I would love to go to Mexico and Las Vegas when I have some time.

 

polo palermo

Which sport do you like outside of polo?

I used to enjoy athletics and netball at school, but now running and tennis.

What do you like to do when you are not playing polo? What is your hobby not connected with horses? 

Outside of polo I love music – I play the piano and keep up with as much new material as possible. I also enjoy music festivals. And shopping is definitely a favourite pastime!

What has been your greatest triumph to date? 

Probably my two favourite wins were winning the ladies’ on ground one at Palermo a few weeks ago and then winning the Maharani Cup at Nuestra Tierra in Argentina in its first year. Both were teams made up of good friends.

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

Ideally, I would like to make it to 8 goals in Ladies’ handicap and 2 goals in mixed. Producing good ponies from my breeding set up in Argentina is also a big motivation for me – playing ponies I witnessed coming into the world is very satisfying. 
What important things have you learned from polo? 

That you can never work hard enough – there is always more to be done – which I enjoy. I really believe that polo is eighty percent about the horses – hence they are my priority. I also believe that people do not pay enough attention to the sports psychology side of the game.

What women polo player you admire and why?

Nina Vestey and Sunny Hale are both outstanding players and Paola Martinez is someone who I do not think has been given enough credit as a player – I admire all of them.

Do you think it is possible to reach good results in women’s polo not being an Argentinian immersed in the polo world from childhood?

I went to work in Argentina from the age of seventeen and bought my farm there at the age of nineteen. I think that without my set up there now, I would be seriously struggling as I have had amazing opportunities there that simply do not exist in England for girl players. I think it is possible to do it in England but the high costs and lack of professional opportunities available make it very difficult. 

Women’s polo

What is your typical training day in Argentina like? What is your daily routine? 

In Argentina, in general, I ride and/or stick and ball in the morning and have practices in the afternoon. As I make my own horses and have my own breeding set up, I spend a lot of time riding the young horses. The rest of my time is spent organising the farm and bed and breakfast business with as much fitness training as possible in between.

 Many women say that they stick and ball day and night, but they cannot improve their polo….What advice would you give to women for stick and ball? What exactly should they do to train? 

I really believe in the mantra that “insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and yet expecting different results” – if you are not improving, l then you need to change your training and infrastructure – whicpolo ladyh is not always easy in polo,  but I constantly review everything to see if any improvements can be made. I also think that ladies need to devote more time to personal fitness – both players and horses need to be athletes.
If you could give three pieces of advice to women playing a tournament, what would they be? What is your advice for women who have just started to play? And for those at advanced level? How would they improve their polo?

The most important thing is to have fun. Preparation is the key and a positive attitude is a must.

I really believe that horses are the key part of polo – so invest as much time and money as possible into your horses and their training. This applies to both beginners and more advanced players. And then fitness and positive thinking along with regular training are all integral to playing well.

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

I currently have about thirty horses of my own plus six of my patrons and eight of a seven goal player in training.

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

There are quite a few!! Probably one of my happiest moments was winning at Palermo for the first time with friends. Playing against Cambiaso and his daughter in their first tournament together, days before he won the Open last year, was amazing. And playing on ground one on ponies I have bred and made was a dream come true.

women in polo

Can you see your life without polo ? If not polo  – what would you like to do in life? 

I cannot imagine my life without polo or horses. When I was nine years old I asked my parents to send me to boarding school away from London – I have always, for some reason, wanted to live in the countryside. But I have also worked in property and it is something that I continue to be involved in alongside my hotel at the farm.

 POLO LADY is currently working on the creation of an interactive calendar of all women’s polo tournaments, because there is no information about them. We would like to write an article about every women’s polo tournament in the world and we realise that this work will take years. We have already started with the tournaments in Europe and UK. We really need help and support of all polo clubs. Can we ask you to support us as well and what do you think of the idea? 

I think it is a great idea to create an all inclusive calendar as there are so many tournaments that are difficult to find information on. For example, I recently played the ladies at Villa a Sesta in Italy – one of my favourite clubs in the world as an amazing polo set up – and yet there were only three teams enjoying a great few days of ladies polo. I am more than happy to help organise a calendar and I think it is the duty of players that travel to try and aid communication between clubs around the world.

 POLO LADY wants to unite all women in polo. We would love your opinion of our new magazine and indeed welcome your comments. Do you think it’s a good idea? Do you think it will work?

Polo Lady is a fantastic concept and comes at an exciting time in Ladies’ Polo as it is currently in an intense period of growth. The addition of the daughters of high goal players can only help the sport due to the publicity and quality of horses and infrastructures becoming involved. The magazine needs to bring all the new developments together, in order to help the sport further and unify ladies’ polo to help it improve. Communication is the key to the sports’ progress and Polo Lady is more than capable of fulfilling the role.

 THANK YOU, Annabel!

Click the icon to go to Annabel’s page!