Ipswich/Great Oakley: Henry Sharp set to take centre stage at polo tournament

Henry Sharp

Henry Sharp - Credit: Archant

One of teenager Henry Sharp’s dreams is set to come true.

The 14-year-old rising polo star will be appearing in the prestigious Young Players Challenge Cup encounter between Ipswich and Newmarket at Trinity Park today.

Henry, who was born with dyspraxia meaning he did not speak until he was six, discovered his love for horses at the age of eight when his mother, Claire Sharp, took him to ride at Harwich Horse Rangers Association - an affordable riding centre where he mucked out and helped with the horses to fund his lessons.

Mrs Sharp, who lives in Great Oakley with husband Alan, 51, 10-year-old son Billy and Henry, said: “I don’t know where he got his fascination with horses from as we are not a horsey family at all.

“He used to ‘work’ at Harwich Horse Rangers Association from 9am to 1pm in return for a riding lesson.

“From there he started vaulting gymnastics on horses bareback, did a couple of shows, some showjumping at small heights and a couple of gymkhanas.”

But Henry’s interest soon turned to polo having watched it on TV and read up about it in his spare time.

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She added: “Each week we would go to get extra tuition for his school work and we would drive past Little Bentley Park Polo Club and he would be screwing his head around trying to have a look.

“I stopped a couple of times so he could run to the fence and watch and soon enough he was invited in by the owner.

“Henry went down one day in the summer holidays with a friend and he took to it just like that and that’s when the owner, Fred Robinson, realised he was a potentially gifted polo player.”

Polo is played with the mallet in the right hand but Henry is left-handed so he has had to adapt to the sport.

Henry, a pupil at Manningtree High School, was then mentored for a year by international polo manager Glen Percy, who saw Henry as an “up and coming protegee”, before he suddenly died.

Mrs Sharp, 50, said: “David Overy Owen, from sponsors J M Finn, called a few weeks ago and asked if Henry fancied a game of polo.

“He has never played a tournament away from Little Bentley and has been offered two ponies from a club member as well as a groom.

“We are just so proud of Henry and excited to see him in action.

“Henry is a little nervous and his little brother told him ‘those butterflies you’re feeling now will turn into a big lion on the day’.

The international polo, which is organised by the Suffolk Agricultural Association in partnership with property developer Hopkins Homes, will feature top international teams.

The big five chukka match of the day will feature teams from England and South America with crowds of more than 5,000 expected.

The gates open at 10.30am with matches starting at 11.30am.

Visit www.internationalpolo.co.uk for more details on tickets.