Meet England's Polo Champ, Jamie Morrison

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What level of fitness does polo demand?
At the top level of polo the players are extremely fit. Being ‘horse riding fit’ is actually very different to being aerobically fit. Most professionals do their bit in the gym but really it’s all about getting up on a saddle. I could take a personal trainer, a really fit guy, and put him on a horse for an hour having not ridden before and he probably wouldn’t be able to walk after it. It’s that different – you use completely different muscles.
Most people in Britain probably think polo is about horses churning up muddy fields while riders swing mallets wildly. Is that fair?
Actually there are different types of polo: winter, snow, arena and beach polo. I’m going to play on South Beach in Florida in April. It’s not real full-on polo, it’s more of an entertainment, but even though you’re on the beach having a bit of fun but its always taken very seriously. Then it’s a split between the grass polo in the summer and the arena polo in the winter. In the winter it’s a lot more physical than it is in the summer. In winter, you’re in a smaller space and there’s a lot more contact.

What’s your pre-season training like?

Before the season starts I would usually get into a personal training programme for about six to eight weeks. I’ll meet a PT two or three times a week, and also try to do as much as I can beyond that. Usually this involves running and a high-intensity gym programme, focusing mostly core strength. If you want to compete at the top and get the edge over the competition, you need to be in top condition.
What is the biggest injury risk in the sport?
Probably the most common injury would be a broken collarbone or a broken wrist. Strangely, though, the faster you are going the more of a chance you have of getting away with it. If you fall off at a high speed you’re likely to bounce off the ground but if you’re going really slowly and you hit it at the wrong angle, you could be in trouble. The rules are designed for the safety of the horses first and then for us. At the moment all you have to protect you are kneepads, glasses and a helmet. There have been talks about adding more protection, but you do need a big range of movement.

What’s the worst injury you’ve ever got playing polo?
I broke my kneecaps about four years ago. The back legs of the horse in front of me hit the front legs of my horse and tripped. I smashed into the ground headfirst and knocked myself out. The horse flipped and did a somersault, landing on my legs. The horse was fine but I had an operation, which kept me out for about six months.

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.