Polo for the masses aim now driving George on

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POLO has been trying to shake off its elitist image for some years now. Never mind Pimms on the lawn, in Yorkshire some intrepid types even play on the beach in bracing conditions at Bridlington out of season.

There are now four polo clubs in the county. The oldest is Toulston, near Tadcaster, followed by newcomers Beverley, The White Rose Club near Market Weighton and the Vale of York, now based at Misson in South Yorkshire.

Polo has been played at Toulston since 1913 when Capt W Riley-Smith laid out a polo ground in the parkland surrounding his home. It was maintained privately until he died in 1954 and was registered as a club the following year.

It has always been a members’ playing club, where people have their own ponies but now there are plans to open the facilities at Toulston to a wider audience.

Coach George Carter is going to be giving lessons there and hopes that newcomers, as well as more experienced riders, will be keen to try out this exhilarating sport.

In his younger days George, 51, worked as a lorry driver for BP. His favourite sports were running and playing rugby league. For 18 years he ran a body shop in Hull painting cars. Polo was a world away from Clough Road in north Hull.

Life changed when George’s partner, Lorraine, wanted to learn to ride. To keep her company he went along, too, and they had lessons at a riding school at Woodmansey.

They bought their own horse after a couple of years and George, always competitive, had a go at everything from dressage to show-jumping, hunting, eventing and team chasing. Then a friend suggested they went for a lesson to Beverley Polo Club which had recently opened.

George was hooked immediately and the sport began to take over his life.

Three years ago, he went on a coaching course to the Beaufort Polo Club in Gloucestershire and started to teach part-time at Beverley.

“Now it is my life,” says George, who worked full-time at Beverley last year as coach and polo manager.

“Because it has been an elite sport for so long, people may think that polo is off limits, much like skiing used to be before package holidays made it affordable,” said George.

“You don’t have to be a club member or own your own horse, which means that people from all walks of life can come along and try it for themselves.”

His new project at Toulston, Genesis Polo, will cater for people living in the York, Harrogate, Wetherby and Leeds area and he hopes it will bring new life to this old established club.

He has seven horses which will be available for lessons, including four which are retrained racehorses.

Club members will start playing at Toulston next weekend if the weather is suitable and spectators are welcome on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Members also play on Wednesdays at 5pm. George Carter is on 07971200160 or email carterlegeorge@hotmail.co.uk.

THE Derwent Hunt is holding a pleasure ride on Good Friday, April 22 at Wydale Cote Farm. There will be two routes, one of five miles suitable for children on lead reins and another of 20 miles with a 12-mile option. This will include some jumps, also optional.

The routes are mostly on bridleways, tracks and over private land, with minimal road work. The ride will raise money for the Hunt and for their Pony Club and the entry fee is £15 before April 15. After that and on the day, it is £20.

Email vickinewbould@hotmail.co.uk or call Diane on 01723 868674.

BRAMHAM International Horse Trials has nominated two military charities this year which will be raising funds at the event. The Yorkshire Regiment Charitable Trust and the Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund will benefit from collections taken over the four days.

Welcome to Yorkshire, the county’s tourist agency, is supporting the horse trials this year. The event will run from June 2-5.

Iveson and Cundall are at opposite ends of Hornby Castle spectrum

HORNBY CASTLE is the setting for the Bedale point-to-point tomorrow.

Pony racing starts at 12.30pm following by the first race at 1.30pm. Organisers are warning people to leave plenty of time as there are roadworks on the A1.

There are 124 entries for the seven races, with the maiden race already divided.

The Hunt Members’ race is usually one of the most hotly contested and will be run with horses that are qualified with both the Bedale and the West of Yore.

Local rider Thomas Iveson, 16, will be looking for his first winner while evergreen Chris Cundall will be hoping for his 100th winner.

The most entries have been received for the Ladies’ Race and 18 are entered in the Men’s Open race which also looks very competitive.

TWO noted Yorkshire riders will be competing against each other in the first Express Eventing Series 2011 qualifier at the Bolesworth Showjumping Classic and Grand Prix on June 11.

Oliver Townend, who won the first Express Eventing competition in 2008, has submitted his application for the event, as has Beverley’s Gary Parsonage, a former Olympic rider and three times winner of the Hickstead Eventing Grand Prix.

Express Eventing, a fast moving version of eventing, involves dressage, cross-country and show-jumping being completed in one arena.

This year, qualifiers are being held at several different shows, the first being at Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire. The two top-placed senior and young riders from each qualifier go through to the final, which will be held at the Horse of the Year Show.

Towend was part of the commentary team last year as the event was only open to young riders. “That really made me appreciate how exciting it is to watch. However I am really looking forward to having the chance to compete at Bolesworth,” said Townend.

Parsonage hopes to compete on his two-star international horse. He said: “For me, the dressage to music element will be novel. At Hickstead, I’ve only ever done show-jumping and cross-country in an arena, so this adds a great twist and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”