UP-AND-COMING polo star Thomas Coid has taken a step closer to getting a call-up for the Young England polo team after attending an elite training camp in South Africa.
The Daglingworth-based 14-year-old came through a number of trials before he was selected as one of just eight youngsters from all over the country who were taken to the spectacular Plettenberg Polo Club in South Africa for a week’s intensive training.
There they came under the care of former South African international and world renowned coach Buster Mackenzie.
Thomas got to play lots of chukkas, watched a 12-goal final played by some top riders and enjoyed taking the polo ponies for a welcome splash in the surf at the beautiful Plettenberg Bay.
Thomas, a pupil at Kingshill School in Cirencester, learnt to ride at the age of six, firstly with Natalie Rozzard and then with Lady Hilary Apsley and her daughter Rosie.
In April, 2008 Thomas’s family bought their first polo pony, Lonely Dove, and she was able to make her home at the Longdole Polo Club thanks to chairman Major Christopher Hanbury and Polo Manager Rob Cudmore. It was here that Thomas learnt the basics of polo under the expert guidance of Dan Banks and Robbie Vinent.
The following year Banks put Thomas forward to make his competitive debut in the Schools and Universities Polo Association (SUPA) Arena Schools Tournament. Later in 2009, he went on to play for the Cotswold Pony Club which qualified to play at the Hurtwood Championships.
Thomas then had a wonderful 2010 season with the Beaufort Hunt Pony Club.
Having outgrown ‘Dove’, Thomas was lucky enough to take possession of a beautiful light bay polo pony called Rum in April, 2011, thanks to Matt Cudmore. From that day he has not looked back.
He started playing Emerging Tournaments at Longdole and was invited to take part in the Pidgley Foundation SUPA Tournament in Cirencester Park. He also played in a team which finishing runner-up at the Cowdray Park Pony Club Polo Championships.
This year has seen Thomas step up to matches with adults – specifically with Ollie Powell, Mimie Powell and Will Blake-Thomas in the Tyro Cup at Cirencester Park. He also turned out in the Associates Tournament at Cirencester Park.
Success has come in the Audi-sponsored Pony Club Championships at Cowdray Park with the Cotswold Hunt team of Hector Chamberlain, Patrick De Barros and Richard St Pier, while he also won the Longdole Junior Tournament with Rosanna Turk, Christian Barnes and Eleisha Gwynne Jones.
It was at the Audi event that he was talent-spotted by the Hurlingham Polo Association and it was the HPA which organised his South Africa trip.
Coid was invited by Ollie Hughes of the HPA to attend a three-day Fast Track Development course at the Lynt Polo Club near Highworth and a month later he took in some similar trials at the Beaufort Polo Club.
He was unable to attend a third selection trial due to tournament commitments but the HPA had seen enough of the youngster’s skills to give him the nod for South Africa.
His father Stewart, a farrier who works at Longdole during the summer, said: ”Buster Mackenzie’s eldest son Chris is a high-goal polo player who comes over to Britain in the summer to play in tournaments.
“Polo is an elitist and moneyed sport and we have got in via the back door at Longdole where I do some work.
“Although there are only a tiny percentage of polo players who go on to become professionals Thomas would like to follow that path and going to South African could lead to selection for the Young England squad.”