Meet Polo Playing IH Member – Laura Elliott
Meet Intelligent Horsemanship Member Laura Elliott
Laura, 32, is based just outside Salisbury, Wiltshire. A keen polo player, she also enjoys retraining ex-racehorses. She is aiming to qualify as an IH Trainer, to help expand on her existing skills and knowledge, helping horses with ‘issues’.
“Being part of IH has been inspiring to me, becoming part of a community of people who all want the best for their horses. I am very much looking forward to completing my training with IH to become an RT to help more people with their horses.”
Did you have a horsey childhood?
I’ve been riding all my life. My mum is horsey, and when I was at school she joined IH herself to encourage me to follow this path. We’ve watched countless videos of Monty and Kelly, which have taught me a lot of the techniques I use. I nagged her for years to let me have a pony of my own. Which she did when I was 10, a little Welsh Prince Phillip Cup games pony called Bean. I saw Monty and Kelly in a demo in Bristol when I was 15. I read their books as a teenager, practising techniques from Kelly’s “Perfect Manners” on my pony Rosie.
A few Pony Club years later, I chose a career with horses over being an actress. I went to Sparsholt College at 16 to study Horse Management and my BHS exams. I then went to The Royal Agricultural College where I did my Equine Degree. I’ve been running my own Livery yard business since I was 20, along other jobs in Dressage, Eventing, Polo, Showing, Breeding and Racing
Polo is a big part of your life now?
I’ve been playing polo for 12 years now, I actually gave up Dressage and Jumping to learn! The summer season lasts from April to September, and the Arena season runs from October to March… So it’s pretty full on if you play all year.
Polo has taken me to Spain to play in a mixed European Tournament in Seville, to Argentina to watch the famous Open, and to Australia to work and play for 3 months which was an incredible experience!
This winter, however, I won’t be playing as I had a very nasty accident last January when another player’s reins got caught around my leg. Nine days in hospital, surgical reconstruction, and 3 months off was a nightmare! I played a little this summer but my leg won’t stand up to the tough play of arena polo.
Has IH helped you in your approach to training polo ponies?
I’ve always wanted to train racehorses for polo. It does take time, but I like to take things slower than others. I don’t believe in rushing horses!
There are a lot of ex-racers being trained for polo now. Which I think is a great new career for the smaller ones. Thoroughbreds are so clever and versatile they can literally do anything!
This summer I bought a round pen which has greatly helped with my young horses. The IH courses I have completed this year have helped me enormously with the subtle techniques and honing of my skills.
Tell us about your own horses
I now own 12 horses, 5 of which are out on loan. They are all thoroughbreds, and a lot of ex racers. I am a big TB fan! Currently at home I have Bushwacker, Lunita (a 4yo to back), The Boys So Sharp (6yo gelding who didn’t make a polo pony, so now schooling him for jumping), Confey (6yo ex-racer I’m retraining for polo), Jenny Sparks (9yo ex-racer I retrained myself for polo) and two Argentine polo ponies Silva and Chela. Where’d Ya Hide It is team chasing with a friend of mine. The others are now retired polo ponies who I loaned out to hacking homes.
What are your next goals?
My horsey goals are to have a complete string of polo ponies I have trained myself. In addition to helping people with their own horses. It’s so rewarding seeing horses and people improve or gain confidence. I love to teach and have done a fair bit… So another aspiration is to teach training horses, thereby combining two of my greatest passions.
What has been your proudest achievement?
My mare Lunita came to me as a 2yr old in a sorry state. Skin and bone, covered in dermatitis and lice, sarcoids everywhere, completely shut down and wind sucking for a past time. She started to come out of her shell and showed a very, very sharp side! If something caused her to take fright she’s been known to flip over backwards, and blindly bolt. Her transformation since she arrived I am so proud of. She is now healthy, (if a bit fat!), brave, curious and friendly. Finally, she can be shod without sedation! Previously she was too terrified to let my ever patient and talented farrier even in her space.
She is still ridiculously sharp but I suppose that will make her a good polo pony in the future if she stops growing! Every small achievement with her is a victory for me, I am so excited for her future.
What other hobbies do you have?
My favourite non-horsey hobby is Pole Dancing (not for clubs but for fitness and fun!), Aerial Hoop, shooting and swimming. In the summer I am a bit of a beach bum!
What is the most valuable benefit of being an IH member for you?
Being part of IH has been inspiring to me, becoming part of a community of people who all want the best for their horses. I am very much looking forward to completing my training with IH to become an RT to help more people with their horses.