British Polo star and Team FLAIR rider Aurora Eastwood says that Polo “… has defined my life for almost 20 years now.” Aurora was interested in horses as a child – something that should hardly have been the case as her parents were definitely not into horses, “… my father was a classical composer and my mother a fashion designer!” In spite of their own lack of equine interest, Aurora’s parents were very supportive of their daughter’s obsession. “I started going to the local riding school from the age of three or four. I rode at every opportunity…”
At first, Aurora’s equine education was self-taught. “I devoured every book I could find on the subject. By the time I got my first pony at age 11, I was pretty well read!” She also made friends with industry experts, learning as much as she could along the way.
In 1993, at the age of 15 Aurora, thanks to author and rider Jilly Cooper, switched from Eventing to Polo “I read her book on holiday and decided that Polo sounded like a lot of fun.” After a summer of Pony Club Polo, she acquired one pony and started building a string that grew to over 60 horses at one point. “I have been helped along the way by many players and makers of horses – namely French horse maker JC Boher, British players Mark and Luke Tomlinson and New Zealander Roddy Wood.”
As a player, Aurora currently holds a one-goal handicap – something which puts her into a very exclusive group of lady players. “This season I will be playing all over the place – a mixture of higher level mixed polo and also two of the most prestigious ladies tournaments – plus a stint playing beach polo in Ibiza and possibly a tournament in Deauville France later this summer.”
But, for most in the Polo world, Aurora is considered a source of top-notch Polo ponies – extremely talented and well-schooled thoroughbreds that perform at a very high level. Aurora consistently produces horses for all the high goal tournaments in the UK as well as prestigious 12, 15 and 18 goal tournaments throughout the world.
Currently, Aurora’s string consists of over 20 horses, “… mostly pure Thoroughbred or at least 7/8ths — my playing string of five and then around 15 young horses coming through. I have bought in from Ireland but also some homebreds out of my old high-goal mares and by my Irish TB stallion. I always used to make the horses myself but as the operation got bigger I started to need more help – I have a supremely talented Australian called Beau Skerrett who is helping me.”
Of her passion Aurora states “Polo is such a challenging sport which makes it so addictive – combining riding, a ball sport and a high tactical element as well makes it hard to play but incredibly good fun also. In addition, seeing horses I have produced playing high goal Polo is very rewarding.”
During her off days, this lover of speed also drives fast cars “I do track days and hope to do a season of circuit racing at some point.” And, she is no longer the lone lover of horses and Polo in her family — her younger sister plays as well. Aurora’s other hats include that of editor of PQ (Polo Quarterly) International — the oldest polo magazine in the UK. “I write for Horse and Hound a little as well.”
Aurora is a firm believer that science and technology can help her horses perform at their best. “Polo is possibly the most physically demanding of all the horse sports. The ponies have to sprint, stop dead, change direction and sprint some more – for up to 7 minutes. Therefore, getting the absolute last ounce of oxygen in to those lungs is absolutely vital! I use the FLAIR strips because I know they make that extra difference to help them along. When a horse is operating at maximum exertion as a Polo pony does when playing, they need all the help they can get! The strips definitely help them get more air into their lungs — something that obviously helps with stamina and performance. They certainly feel better at the end of the chukka with the strips.”