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One on one with polo families

Raphael Nzomo (left) and Mike du Toit (right). PHOTOS | MARTIN MUKANGU
Raphael Nzomo (left) and Mike du Toit (right). PHOTOS | MARTIN MUKANGU 

With polo enjoying a renaissance in Kenya, here's a look at some of the generational players galloping their ponies into position.

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Raphael Nzomo, Aviation Expert

Handicap: 2

Number of horses: You need a minimum of four horses to play polo. My entire family plays polo. My daughter is possibly one of the best African lady polo players and my sons aged 14 and 11 years also play amazing polo.
Favourite horse: Pink.

This is a Chestnut Mare from South Africa. She has played for Springboks, and I reckon she is one of the best horses in Kenya.

Some of best polo ponies come from right here in Kenya. South Africa and Zimbabwe also produce world class polo horses.

Polo activities: Eight tournaments in a year

Parting shot: Polo is the ultimate sport. Every accomplished athlete on the big stage reveres the game of polo and wishes they could play it.

Mike du Toit, Liberty and Stanlib Regional Group Executive For East And Central Africa

Handicap: 1.5

When did you cultivate love for horses:

I first started to ride when I was in my mid-30s.  I had moved from Cape Town to Gaborone, Botswana, and found that the sports I usually engaged in were not available, so I decided to start horse riding because there were quite a few stables.  

After that I moved to Uganda and then Mozambique and still did more conventional riding – not very well though!!
We moved to Kenya 14 years ago and it was only 10 years ago— in my mid-40s— when I started to play polo. 

Mainly because my wife thought I’d enjoy it!  She started to ride as a child in Denmark and has an absolute passion for horses.

How many horses do you have?

I have two sons (16 and 12 years old) that also play, so we have nine polo ponies and then my wife, who is a dressage and show-jumping enthusiast has some more for that side of equestrian sports.

What is your favourite horse(s) name and their ages?

My favourite is a brown and white horse whose name is Demolition— mainly because he’s so enthusiastic and keen to play.  He’s now about 15 years old.  My best horses are Tapitha, Popsy and Light Fingers —but unfortunately, I don’t get to play them too often as they are also the safest for the kids to play on!

How much did they cost?

I pay about $5,000-6,000 (Sh500,000 to Sh600,000) for a polo pony.  They can be a lot more expensive than that, but I’m an employee not a business owner, so $6K is my limit!

What is their original country?

All the polo horses are from South Africa and my wife’s are a mixture of Danish and other countries, like Zimbabwe.  She has also bred using artificial insemination and then transfers the embryo to another surrogate, all complicated stuff. 

But that’s not for me. I buy my polo ponies already trained to play polo as I don’t have the time or the skill level to train and get them into playing state: that is more than just hard work – it’s an art form.

How were they shipped into the country?

The polo ponies and those from Europe all come on freight flights. They don’t fuss at all, although they take about a year to get used to their new surroundings, the grass, feed, the weather. 

Often when they come (in winter) they have thick furry coats and it can take a few seasons for them to realise it doesn’t get that cold in Nairobi and they then stop automatically growing the extra hair!

How many horsing activities do you involve yourself in?

Other than polo, I only do riding out in the forest and the occasional horse safari.  My wife is a very active rider (spends hours every day on top of a horse) and my sons also do show-jumping.

Rowena Stichbury

Handicap: 0

Number of horses: Enough and shared among a family of five.

Favourite Horse: Starax (5 years) or Levendisa (9 years)

About Starax: She is South African. She is five-years-old. She arrived in Kenya two years ago.

About Levendisa: She is from Zambia. She came to Kenya on a truck as a three-year-old pony.

Most expensive horse maintained: Whisper

Polo activities: Four weekends in Nairobi, and 14 weekends over the year.

Parting Shot: Polo is an exciting sport that does not matter who you are. Or your gender. In June our youngest player was nine years and oldest 74 and we played together on the same field.

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One on one with Manager David Mwangi

Employer: Philip Arungah (current Nairobi Polo Club Chairman)

Horses at disposal: Nine

Years of horse services: 35

Daily job activities: Feeding horse, grooming them, exercising them.

Traits for a horse manager: Horses are like babies. So if you like babies you can blend well in a horse environment. If you do not like babies you can never take care of horses.

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