Polo player Tamara Fox remembers how she started out in the sport, how she juggled a business and playing at the top level and the attention to detail of the high-goal game
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MEET POLO PLAYER TAMARA FOX
“When I started playing polo at 11 years old, I instantly fell in love with the sport,” says Tamara Fox. “The combination of going as fast as your pony can travel while having to hit a ball through a goal appealed to me. As a child, I went to the Cotswold branch of the Pony Club, hunted with the Cotswold and evented. Being competent on a pony made the transition into polo easier, as I could focus on learning the game and how to hit the ball better. I started playing Pony Club polo and we had idyllic summers travelling around the various polo fields. My brother, Ben (Vestey), and sister, Nina (Clarkin), started playing polo at the same time as me, so we had some healthy sibling rivalry. My parents loved polo; my father, Mark, was four-goals in his day and my mother, Rosie, took it up in her fifties. They would spend hours on the sidelines, encouraging us. Before games, if we were playing against each other, we would often ask Dad who he would support. He would always reply calmly, and with a cigar in his hand, ‘Darlings, polo is the winner.’
“After university I was lucky to get a job with Garangula, the Australian arm of the Black Bears high-goal team. I played their young ponies in chukkas and local tournaments, and when our patron couldn’t make a tournament at Ellerston, outside of Sydney, I was allowed to play instead of him on his ponies. They were absolute machines. We had some tough games and it was so hot that sometimes it felt like there was no oxygen in the air. But we made it to the finals and won the tournament. This was my first experience of being around high-goal players, and their attention to detail was eye-opening.
“Polo is all-consuming and it can become frustrating if you have had a bad season, or if you feel that you could have played better. I found that running a catering business alongside playing was a great distraction, but it also focused my mind on the actual playing, as opposed to obsessing over a loss from missing a particular shot or goal.
“So many teams have been fun to play in, but my favourite was playing with my sister Nina, Emma Tomlinson and Lucy Coddington [née Taylor]. This team came about by accident and our first game together was in the Gerald Balding eight-goal tournament at Cirencester Park in 2007. We ended up winning and becoming the first ever all-female team to win a mixed tournament in the UK. I learnt a great deal playing in that team and as I get older and youthful exuberance dwindles away, the desire to win and to go out on to the field with everything I have has stayed.
“My children ride, and love polo and hunting as much as my husband, George (pictured above with Tamara), and me. Our rides resemble a Thelwell picture – naughty ponies and chaos – but we seem to make it through to the next day.
“I have never been a particularly good shot. Instead of taking the time to practise, I chose to go hunting or travel to hotter climes to play polo. My father was a good shot and had an adjusted ATV bike that he shot from, with my mother swinging the chair [Mark was confined to a wheelchair after a hunting accident in 1984]. Mum took this job seriously and often commented on the similarities to a Gunner’s Mate, much to Dad’s exasperation. If I ever had to take control of Dad’s shooting chair, I used to hear endless sighs of, ‘Your other right, Darling!’ as he stretched out for his shot.”