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Women in polo

Learn more about the top rated women’s polo players

A look back in history

Polo began in 6th century BC as a training game for cavalry units and has grown consistently and more recently at a rapid pace. The limitations on women before the last 51 years has not stopped the massive growth of the sport for women and men. The United States Polo Association, the national governing body for the sport in the US, reports that more than 39% of the membership are female. Interesting enough the women trailblazers of the sport not only compete at the highest level but support the women that are coming through the ranks.

Polo is played on a handicap to keep the players and their equine partners safe. Each of the four players on the team must add up to a tournament handicap in a competition level game. A 10-goal rated player is the highest rated on the team. The lowest level on the team for women’s tournaments can be rated a 0.

A new world for women’s polo

Before women became official USPA members in 1972, their polo women like Sue Sally Hale who didn’t take no for an answer. She started competing against men in the 1950’s, at a time when women were not allowed to play, by wearing a fake mustache and hiding her hair in her helmet. Although women were not permitted to play against or with men at the time, the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship dating back to the 1930’s was organized in secrecy as a path to the future competition for women. The tournament has grown to become the most prestigious women’s polo tournament in the United States and continues to showcase the best women’s polo players and equine athletes in the world. The tournament is now played at the prestigious USPA National Polo Club in Wellington, Florida.

Since the origins of the competition and trailblazers like Sue Sally Hale, a lot has changed in the world of polo. The following female players and other high-goalers like them continue to make waves and set new standards for all players.

Polo boasts a unique element of equality; women can play both in women’s tournaments as well as mixed tournaments. To ensure all players and equine partners are safe, women receive both a women’s handicap and a mixed handicap allowing them to play across both types.

Sunny Hale

Much like Sue Sally Hale, Sunny’s mother, Sunny Hale broke barriers of all kinds and changed the trajectory of the sport for women to support the growth and development of the game as we know it now. Sunny Hale was one of the greatest female players in history. Sunny became the first woman to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the most prestigious tournament in the United States. Throughout her polo career, Hale competed on previously male dominated teams, such as the Outback Polo Team, where she was hand picked by now #1 rated polo player Aldofo Cambiaso. After winning, she went on to secure a 5-goal mixed handicap, the highest a woman has ever achieved among male players.

Hale used her platform as a player and as a USPA board member to continue her mission in advocacy for female players. She created a rating system for female players, founded the Women’s Championship Tournament, and revived the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship. Hale passed away in 2017 from her battle with cancer, but her contributions to polo will never be forgotten. Female polo players around the world continue to be inspired to carry the torch and continue to make new roads for Women’s Polo.

Hazel Jackson (10-Goal Women’s Handicap)

As of January 2023, Hazel Jackson has been named the highest-ranking women’s polo player in the world, according to the World Polo Tour rankings. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Jackson plays in the UK, Argentina and the winter polo season in the United States. Although playing internationally is not unique when it comes to high-goal players, Jackson sets herself apart by being a first generation polo player and continues to work by schooling horses for her patron. With a women’s handicap of ten and a mixed handicap of two, Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. In March of 2023, Jackson captured her 4th U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship title with La Fe Polo Team.

Nina Clarkin (10-Goal Women’s Handicap)

In addition to Jackson, Nina Clarkin is another British high goal female player and is the second highest ranking women’s polo player in the world. Clarkin holds a women’s outdoor handicap of ten and a mixed rating of three. Although Clarkin boasts numerous accolades, she is best known for winning the British Open Gold in 2003; the only woman to have won it. In addition, Clarkin won a mixed eight goal tournament in England, becoming the first all-female team to do so. Unlike Jackson, Clarkin comes from a polo family and has been playing since she was 6-years old. Through her years of experience and incredible talent, Clarkin has earned many accolades and is not likely to stop improving anytime soon.

Hope Arellano (10-Goal Women’s Handicap)

An iconic young female player who got an early start to polo is Hope Arellano. Since she was nine, Arellano wanted to be a professional polo player. At 19, she is now the highest ranking American female polo player with a handicap of eight and mixed handicap of two, which will be a 10 by the end of the year making her the second American to do so.

Arellano has been breaking records since she was fourteen when she became the youngest woman to win the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in 2017. Most recently, Arellano won the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in 2023 alongside teammate and friend, Hazel Jackson. She also placed third with her team in the Argentine Women’s Open and in 2022 she became the first female to represent the United States in the FIP World Polo Championship. Arellano is currently a global brand ambassador for the global sports brand, U.S. Polo Assn.

If you are hooked on learning more about Women’s Polo and the top rated women’s players, follow us @globalpolo to see the Season 3 premier of the Women in Polo show on ESPN and beIN Sports.

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