Howwe! is proud to share with you the exciting chat we had with Aggie Patricia. Not only does she play Polo at the Scenic and only Polo Club in Uganda Kakira Nile Polo Club (KNPC) in Jinja but also recently was part of Africa’s grandest and prestigious annual polo tournament Africa Polo Open in a very competitive and strong team ‘”Princess Nandi” of such skillful ladies that played in the exhibition match for the South Africa Vs Nigeria match organized by Mr. Concierge SA. Her team brought back trophies. She inspires some women and men here in Uganda in general and she is always keen to inspire new riders in this sport.
Interesting, tell me about Polo players and riders in general, to me they sound nothing but snobs.
It’s sad you feel that way; I for one continue to find the polo community is a family and it continues to be one of the most friendly and welcoming and encouraging sporting communities out there, such an act of true Horsemanship.
Tell us about KNPC’s routine.
The ponies are exercised every day of the week and the field mowed every Friday.
KNPC is pretty strict with the good functioning of the stables so everything is close to perfect, from the staff, horses and the grounds. KNPC gives much importance to the physical condition of the horses and the club facility.
Africa Polo Open 2018, tell us what was your highlight?
For me meeting my role model Neku Atawodi Edun, a dream come too soon, the first female black professional polo player in the world couldn’t get any chill and real, humility is an understatement in relation to her, you’d think one that has ‘arrived’ wouldn’t greet just about anyone. She is a star; indeed she does wear her crown well. Spending so much time with you in the car, Inanda Polo Club, gym, and the hotel in general was just splendid.
I understand one needs over 6 Ponies to have a good play, did you ship down the ponies from KNPC to Johannesburg? Where did you get the ponies from?
For a good play, yes and no, thankfully we didn’t have to, transporting horses strains and stresses the ponies so our captain Jossie Spilsburg from East Rand Polo Club mounted Neku and I with her string of ponies. My horses were machines; to be honest they were a bit fast for me so I am glad I kept tight on that saddle.
What was the crowd like?
The crowd was full of very fashionable people aficionados of the polo lifestyle, to be honest this was one of the things that primarily pulled me into polo, business people, the sport is clearly synonymous with Fashion, luxury. Polo is also about networking and being sociable, making friends while off and on stomping the grounds.
How did they scout for you? How did they find you? How come you were chosen by Mr. Concierge from amongst all the other 53 African countries
Instagram is where I was contacted; we can all agree that current social media portals are free avenues of brand messaging. For me in public relations I am not surprised that as the communication landscape evolves rapidly, strategic communication means keeping a watchful eye on the way your audience consumes information you put out on the channels they utilize.
I take it this is what you are doing when not on horseback?
Damage control, I am a director at 80/20Marketing Ltd that is shaping Uganda's narrative so the world becomes aware of it with the hope to enhance and change the poor perception. Once the rest of the world sees Uganda’s potential through a positive lens, investment and support is likely to follow.
We facilitate stakeholder relationships, create customized content and guide the conversation while allowing it to be authentic. This supports our clients in establishing a market presence and enhancing target audience engagement. I believe our economic growth story presents opportunities for a multitude of marketing and communications disciplines, including PR. I have no doubt at all its opportunities for business development is encouraging.
On the field, were you treated like an up-coming player or did you feel that there was a certain distance?
The teams were well balanced and even though there is a physical difference between men and women, which is inevitable and will always exist. This sport requires a great technique to ride properly and hit the ball correctly. I also think that it is the technique that allows women to play a match that is equal with men.
What brands do you represent today?
None at the moment but I would love to be an ambassador for brands like City Tyres, Rwenzori water because I easily relate to them. I also have great feeling we that when we get more sponsors behind the sport, that will result in more global publicity!
What would you like to have changed to improve the game?
Realistically, I would like to see better infrastructure so as to eventually get the matches live streamed so that players like us, friends and family overseas watch for example fixtures of the major tournaments that make up the Argentine triple Crown; 4 weeks of the Hurlingham, Palermo Open Championship, Tortugas Open games that end on the 6th October so we can learn from the best and cheer them on from a far. I think little things like that will help Polo grow and get the kudos it deserves.
Do you have any stick and ball tips? Do you recommend any special exercises for improvement?
People can work on three areas of play to improve
their game whilst stick and balling: Accuracy where one practices hitting a target every time one hits the ball, with
every kind of shot, forwards, neck shots, back hands, near sides name it. Hitting long. Here practice driving the ball with distance and without unnecessary force on all shots. And finally, Control. Tapping the ball in straight lines, in circles, getting full control of the ball, your stick and your horse. Again on both sides.
What dreams do you still want to achieve? What are the things you still want to improve?
I have a new dream every day! I want to keep improving, playing great polo with great people, acquiring my own horses I have been so lucky so far but if I can reach a few goals higher that would make me really happy. I am trying to dedicate myself to it right now because it makes me very happy. I would also like to encourage girls and women to try out new things out of the norm if they can afford it..
What are the most important things riding and playing polo taught you?
Discipline and commitment. I am humbled and thankful for every opportunity presented to me. Not to give up on a dream, because anything is possible and the world of polo is an amazing place! And I wouldn’t change my sport for any other.
You are in good shape; do you go to the gym? Do you practice another sport?
Thank you but no I don’t but I love using my body weight with my trainers at home pretty early, 7 O’clock to 8. I used to go to the gym but I wasn’t as consistent so I settled for fitness trainers Janox and self-defense Master Yiga which helps me to strengthen, but also to challenge myself. They own the local gym next to my house and this has improved my riding so much.
What was the price you had to pay, I mean were you riding horses for hours and hours, that sport is so expensive? Or maybe you just have a natural talent for polo?
I am so passionate about horses and that drives me and I want to be good at riding, I will be at the stables whenever I can and that in itself pushes me to get better each time. I got to where I am now from sacrificing a few things, stick and balling and exercising with the horses with our Trainer Wachira Joseph.
Do you think the regular Kampala girl can achieve something in polo if she works 5 days a week for polo?
Impossible is a word people use to describe something ‘they’ can’t do. I love that line form Georgethepoet’s poem, IMPOSSIBLE. Everyone has different goals and
dreams can be achieved when one put’s their mind to it. So anyone can enjoy polo, some just love the sport and the sensation of riding a horse flat out downs a polo field. That’s the beauty of polo, with a handicap system, it allows everyone to be a blue to play at any level and enjoy them.
What has been your happiest day in polo?
Anyday with horses will be a good day, although winning the Africa Polo Open late Saturday has been it. I felt a lot of pressure before having arrived late, checking the ponies, but I had a strong team that invoked a sense of sisterhood I never experienced, strategy, coordination largely contributed to our win, not forgetting the much needed skill my teammates have acquired from polocrosse. We stepped up to the challenge and thrived on it. It was a great match and will always be very special to me.
At last we have some questions we ask all women athletes, as we would like to support them, women sometimes feel there is a lack of respect from men during the mixed matches. What advice do you have for them?
Not that it has happened to me. The hardest part is getting onto the field, but once you are there, any girl is just as tough and talented than any guy she faces on the same handicap as her!