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Polo players get sea legs to help working horses

The Atlantic Polo Team, from left, Henry Brett, Bobby Melville, Fergus Scholes, and James Glasson.

The Atlantic Polo Team, from left, Henry Brett, Bobby Melville, Fergus Scholes, and James Glasson.

Some of England’s top professional polo players are swapping pony power for man power in the world’s number one ocean endurance race, The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The direct beneficiaries will be horses, donkeys, mules, and their owners in developing countries through The Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare organization.

The Atlantic Polo Team is currently rowing its way across the Atlantic ocean in aid of the Brooke’s worldwide programs. The charity is based in London, England, but its North American office is at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

The Atlantic Polo Team sets off from the Canary Islands on December 4.

The Atlantic Polo Team sets off from the Canary Islands on December 4.

Horses are of course close to the hearts of these polo players. Their 3000-mile journey, which is one of the toughest races on earth (more people have been into space or climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic) began in the Canary Islands on December 4, and will end in Antigua sometime in January. Their journey will support the Brooke in its mission to increase the number of working equines it helps from 1.2 million currently to two million a year by 2016.

Bobby Melville is Captain of the Atlantic Polo Team. He has played for England in the European Championships in Rome, the World Cup in Mexico, and England tours to Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Henry Brett, another of the four-member team, is a 38-year-old former Captain of the England Polo Team. He was also England’s highest rated polo player from a young age. Henry has won every major tournament in England and captained the team at home and abroad and now runs a young horse program in Oxfordshire and continues to play professionally around the world.

“We are delighted to be able to support the Brooke and pleased to see the effect the Brooke has on improving the lives of working equines and the impact this has on the families who own them,” Brett said.

The Brooke, whose president is Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, provides veterinary treatment, training and education programs in 11 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, where there is the highest population of working equines and extreme levels of human poverty.

Richard Britten-Long and his son, Nicholas, both avid polo players in the UK, are sponsoring The Atlantic Rowing Team in association with the Brooke, of which Richard is a Trustee. Richard is also the vice president of the 3,000-acre Cirencester Polo Club, the most historic polo club in the UK.

“The enthusiasm and spirit shown by Henry Brett and his team in crossing the Atlantic in what could well be some awesome circumstances is matched by the Brooke’s resolve to reach out to two million working equines and relieve their suffering. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate challenge to help raise awareness and essential funds for the Brooke,” Richard Britten-Long said.

There are 100 million working equines around the world, suffering some of the most punishing working and environmental conditions of any animal on the planet. In some countries, horses will carry loads of more than 300 pounds at a time, 10 times a day, without any food or water.

Henry Brett concluded: “Horses are 80% of the game of polo and are the key to any polo player wanting to compete at a professional level and make a living out of the sport. We hope that we can raise much more awareness of the work the Brooke does and that our challenge will help fund future projects and enable the Brooke to reach many more working equines around the world.”

Sixteen teams are taking part in the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, from groups of six down to solo rowers.

The Atlantic Polo Team’s progress can be followed via Facebook and www.atlanticpoloteam.com.

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