An Interesting Man: Polo player Tom Morley

Ahead of the NZ Polo Open this weekend, we talk ponies, grooming and Prince Harry with professional polo player Tom Morley

Tom Morley. Picture / Guy Coombes.

Driving a small wooden ball to the end of a field on horseback riding up to speeds of 60kmph would be a complete logistical nightmare for most, but Tom Morley makes it look easy.

“It's an amazing feeling, the bond between player and horse. You're also playing a team sport travelling at 50/60 km whilst trying to hit a little bouncing ball. It's an incredible rush. The sport also can take you all over the world to some amazing places and you meet fabulous people from all walks of life” explains Morley.

Hailing from West Sussex, England, the professional polo player is in New Zealand for the Land Rover NZ Polo Open this weekend, a tournament he’s played in for the last 12 seasons.

Towering at around 6ft 6, the 34-year-old travels the world playing the game — and even counts Prince Harry as a team mate, having played alongside each other for England in Sydney in 2003, plus other charity games over the years throughout England.

When did you first become interested in playing polo?
My father was the manager of a farm in West Sussex, England, so I was lucky enough to grow up on it. The owner of the farm played polo and had his own team so I was always surrounded by great players and great horses. I started playing when I was around 12 years old and turned professional at the age of 21.

What does your morning routine look like?
Depending on whether I have a game that day or not I either, get up and go to the barn to check on the horses and grooms, make sure everything is in order. Then I will collect my mallets, boots and other equipment before going home for breakfast. Then I will liaise with my team mates a couple of hours before the game and we will go over strategies and game plans for the match. If I don't have a game I'll see the horses on their morning exercise and make sure they are all working well. Then I will go for a little practice session, maybe working on hitting penalties or dribbling or the team will get together and we will do some passing drills and set plays.

Describe your daily grooming routine...what products do you use?
First thing in the morning, the horses get their breakfast. After that they are taken out of their box and it's cleaned for them. The horses are brushed, have their tails combed and pulled, their mane clipped, feet picked out and painted with oil all before they go on exercise.

What are your three favourite items in your wardrobe?
My Rodd & Gunn merino woollen jumper, my Ainsley polo belt and Mark Powell London bespoke suit.

Tom Morley. Picture / Guy Coombes.

What do you wear day to day?
Jeans, a Rodd & Gunn T-shirt and Air Jordans.

What do you wear when you go out?
On a smarter night out I'll wear fitted navy trousers, a white button up shirt and a pair of brown brogues.

What are you currently reading or watching?
Watching: The TV series Vikings.
Reading: The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell.

What is the last song you downloaded?
You Don't Own Me by Grace feat. G-Eazy.

Where are your favourite places to eat?
In London it has to be The Ivy Chelsea Garden. In Auckland my favourite is Ostro, and when I'm out in Pukekohe it's the Monarch followed by a couple of drinks at the Smart Bar.

How long are you in New Zealand for?
For six weeks this year. I have been coming for the last 12 seasons and the Land Rover NZ Polo Open is a massive tournament that I always want to play in. I also come to try and find horses to buy and fly them back to the UK. I generally buy my horses from my Rodd and Gunn team mate Ross Ainsley. He trains horses here all year round and I have had some great Kiwi horses from him.

What are your plans for the future?
For the next few years I will be playing polo in the UK, and I also plan on coming back to NZ to play and buy more horses. After that I am not so sure... I have started getting into a bit of property development with a friend of mine in England as I need to start planning my post polo life so I will have to see how that goes. I'm open to suggestions though...

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