The UK polocrosse season has got off to an early start, thanks to the increasing popularity, and opportunity, of playing arena polocrosse. Rugby Polocrosse Club, based at Onley Grounds (the site which hosted the 2011 World Cup) has been training in the arenas at the site on Thursdays and Sundays for the last couple of months and then in the last few weeks two independent arena training days and tournaments have been announced, to cater to the growing demand for all year round polocrosse action.
Horse King, the horse trading website, announced an arena tournament to be held at Dallas Burston polo grounds in Warwickshire on the 26th of January and now Ledbury Polocrosse Club have announced an arena training and chukka day at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire on the 16th of February. There are also rumours that John Whitehead plans to independently run more arena tournaments in the next few months in the run up to the usual outdoor UKPA polocrosse season.
Arena polocrosse has gradually developed in the UK over the last couple of years, with occasional club training sessions being held in arenas for a number of years and then Rugby starting to play it more regularly a couple of years ago. Ledbury also held a similar training day last year and there were also two arena tournaments last summer (when the incredibly wet UK weather stopped play on grass pitches) but now it seems to be taking hold in an even bigger, and more pre-planned, way as more people want to play polocrosse all year round.
The shortness of the polocrosse season has long been bemoaned. The traditional tournament season now starts in mid May (the UKPA established an early season tournament in May a few years ago to try and guarantee this as starting point, as before this happened the season seemed to be starting slightly later each year as clubs tried to guarantee good weather by announcing later tournament dates) and runs till the end of August, when the UKPA National Championships is traditionally held. In the last couple of years there have been a few more tournaments held in September, again an attempt by the UKPA and its member clubs to stretch the tournament season, but tournaments beyond mid September were considered impractible, with the decreasing length of daylight hours and the possibility of colder and more adverse weather making playing and camping conditions in the UK unattractive.
Against this desire to play and camp in the good weather is set the annoyance of keeping a horse all year round to only really use for tournaments for three or four months of the year. Horses are turned away in September and normally brought back into work around March to get ready for the season. Also more and more players found that a mere summer of polocrosse was not enough to satisfy their polocrosse cravings, they wanted to play all year round.
From these twin factors has come the growth of arena polocrosse and alongside the idea of horse hire to play in arena polocrosse. Rugby offers a horse hire service to potential players so that players don’t have to keep their own horses running in the winter if they don’t want to and Horse King and Ledbury are also arrranging horse hire at their tournaments. A lot of the horses which are used for horse hire are polo ponies (Onley Grounds is home to the Rugby Polo Club who also have a well established winter session) and this seems to work well, allowing polocrosse players to play in the off season on suitable horses and giving polo clubs another source of income.
The development of a longer season of polocrosse in the UK and also the increased ease of access to the sport via developments such as horse hire can only be seen as a good move for the sport. More opportunities for people to play the sport should lead to more players. This should lead to an increased awareness of polocrosse in the UK and therefore more sponsorship and publicity for the sport.