Page 73 - The Chapka 2016
P. 73

 For the second year running, the British Army Polo Team was invited by the Mongolian Government to play with and train the Mongolian Army Polo team. From its early origins in Persia,
the ‘game’ was picked up in India by the British and brought back. In the last few years, the popularity of the sport in Asia has had something of a renaissance, and Mongolia is hoping to lead the way. A team of four from the British Army polo team, which included Captain Richardson, the Operations Officer, set off in October for a ten day visit in the hope to train with, build relations and hopefully beat the Mongolian team in an exhibi- tion match.
The team travelled to an Army base five hours drive west of Ulan Batar, in the province of Khenti, the birthplace of Ghengis Khan. Here, Mongolian ceremonial troops were stationed, com- plete with approximately two-hundred semi-wild steppe ponies which were used for state ceremonial parades in the capital Ulan Batar. The Mongolian Army polo development team would be in charge of training the ceremonial ponies and to play polo – tough gig. The thought of another ADOC inspired spreadsheet was a distant memory.
Polo, the Mongolian way, took a bit of getting used to. The po- nies were extremely small and tough, often with manes that were so long they touched the ground. Each pony was expected to play a full match and as a result it was difficult to get them to go any faster than a trot and often difficult to stay on at all - which I found out twice within the first ten minutes! A pitch was marked out in the endless steppe grassland and we spent five days training. This included tactics, riding, pony management and plenty of practice chukkas (despite the language barrier!).
Next we moved to Khan Polo Club, near to Ulan Batar where we played an exhibition polo match of British Army vs Mongo- lian Army. The UK ambassador, Mongolian Defence Minister, UK Defence Attaché and many others were present (includ- ing assistant Defence Attache, Major Matt Hayward, who had Squadron-led with the Queen’s Royal Lancers). The match got underway after a short snow shower and was played over four, five minute chukkas. It was a hard fought match with plenty of falls (only from the British Army team), although we did come out victorious 6-4. The visit was a fantastic example of defence engagement through the medium of polo and UK - Mongolian relations have been never been stronger. South Africa beckons for the Regimental training camp this year and with a clutch of new stars we start our campaign to win back the esteemed Captains and Subalterns cup. Hopefully we can bring the new Commanding Officer out of retirement for a guest appearance!
Polo in Mongolia
  The Army team ride into battle.
AJAX experimentation continues

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