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Twelve years of summer

GLENN Sherriff has spent the past dozen years going from English summers to New Zealand summers, playing polo and training and selling horses.

It's a real balancing act — pursuing his sport, keeping fit and paying the bills.

The downside for the man from rural Tairawhiti of dividing each year between the two hemispheres is all the packing and unpacking.

The upside includes playing many games of the sport of kings in England and focusing on producing polo ponies when he's back in New Zealand.

As well as schooling horses at his New Zealand base in Clevedon, south of Auckland, Sherriff is preparing for the BMW New Zealand Polo Open next month.

The tournament, New Zealand's largest, will be held on February 22 just down the road from where his horses are stabled and it will feature top Kiwi talent, as well as professionals from overseas.

Raised on a sheep and beef farm near Gisborne, Sherriff, 31, has become one of New Zealand's best polo players.

He plays professionally in England, maintaining a five-goal handicap. He can play several games a week there, where the sport is quite an industry.

At the same time, he and his girlfriend Lottie Lamacraft, who has captained the English women's polo team, keep a barn of about 25 horses in England.

The pair usually source the horses from Down Under and do the bulk of the training in New Zealand but they tend to sell for higher prices in Britain, Europe or Asia. It takes about three years to produce a polo pony.

Sherriff plans to play polo every weekend in the lead-up to the 43rd New Zealand Polo Open, getting the ponies match-fit.

His interest in the sport started young and it stemmed from watching his father, Mike.

“My father played for a few years but stopped for a while,” Sherriff said.

“He started up again when I was quite young, about five.

“I always rode . . . went hunting . . . and by seven I was probably big enough to swing a stick.”

Sherriff attended Waerenga o Kuri School west of Gisborne and then Makauri School on the outskirts of the city, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys' High School.

Colin Kirkpatrick and Patrick McIldowie were among the senior players in the Poverty Bay Polo Club about that time and Sherriff was part of a young group who were into the sport.

After leaving school, he took a farming job with the McKelvie family in Rangitikei. The McKelvies play polo and Ian McKelvie, former Manawatu mayor, is now the Rangitikei MP.

“I carried on with polo there and had two winters on the farm, before heading to England to play and produce ponies there.”

More recently, he had two seasons based at Pukekohe and two at Clevedon.

The polo season in England hits its stride in April and runs until the end of September.

A stretch of about six weeks from October is the longest period Sherriff has where he is not playing. He maintains his fitness through riding and stays limber by stretching.

The New Zealand season is focused on January and February. Sherriff said he and Lamacraft would normally arrive in New Zealand in November and depart in March.

“I've probably been a little lucky with injuries,” he said.

“I've had falls and knocks but nothing that has put me out for a long period of time.”

In England, much of his polo is at the Cowdray Park Polo Club in West Sussex and Guards in Windsor.

Sherriff met the Queen and shook her hand in 2016. His team made it to the Royal Windsor final at Guards that year and the Queen was part of the trophy presentation ceremony.

“It was pretty cool. I've never done anything like that before.”

Six teams will compete for the trophy at the New Zealand Polo Open, which is at the Auckland Polo Club grounds.

balancing act: Gisborne-raised Glenn Sherriff is preparing to play in next month's New Zealand Polo Open. He plays professionally in England and focuses on producing polo ponies when he's in New Zealand.Picture supplied