Women's polo


When the call came in late 2022 from Ed Armstrong, inviting me to join the U.S. women’s polo team and play in the arena invitational in Hyderabad, India, it was very well received news. Hyderabad Polo and Riding Club (HPRC) would, post pandemic, host the HPRC International Women’s Arena Cup from February 28 to March 4.

A team from the U.K. joined us, thanks to sponsor Suresh Khandelwal of Galaxy Impex. It was co-organized with Polo Yatra, a partnership of L. Somi Roy, Ed Armstrong, Satyajit Aribam and Nabarun Paul, based out of Manipur in northeast India. Polo Yatra and HPRC collaborated to present the first HPRC International Women’s Arena Polo Cup in Hyderabad in 2020. I was on the U.S. team with fellow American Alyson Poor and Neelu Rajkumari from Manipur. Poor and I were a part of the U.S. team that had just played in Manipur on the Manipuri polo ponies, followed by a trip to Hyderabad to compete in an arena tournament against a young and newly formed team from Egypt and the Indian Polo Association (IPA) team.


In 2016, the Statehood Day Women’s International Polo Tournament Series was started by L. Somi Roy, a cultural conservationist and polo advocate in Manipur, India. Along with Ed Armstrong, former Director of Tournaments and Clubs for the USPA, and Steve Armour, former USPA Governor-at-Large, a polo horse breeder and longtime player from Texas. Sponsored by Manipur Tourism, Polo Yatra (yatra meaning journey or voyage) and the All Manipur Polo Association served as the organizers. It was the first international women’s tournament played in the Northeast Region of India in a state called Manipur. Built upon the women’s state tournaments starting in the mid-1980s, it was also the first and only women’s international tournament in India held annually in January for the next five years.

Roy, Armstrong and Armour were destined to meet, organize, and travel to Imphal, India, for the inaugural 2016 tournament and each to follow. Polo Yatra has hosted six women’s teams each year from 2016 representing countries such as Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, USA, Canada, U.K., Australia and Manipur. By the fourth edition in 2019, Polo Yatra was able to convince the IPA to form its first women’s team and to send it to play in the tournament in Manipur.

Through their relentless efforts, women players from all around the world have participated in Manipur’s international women’s polo in India. In addition to playing tournaments in Manipur, Polo Yatra has made it their mission to send the visiting teams to take USPA and Manipur’s message of women’s polo across India to cities like Jaipur, Mumbai and Hyderabad. By organizing and implementing international women’s tournaments, Armstrong, Armour and Roy were able to bring many international women players to Manipur.

This has allowed many of the Manipuri women to improve their game by competing with and against players from leading polo countries like the U.S., Great Britain and Argentina, as well as to travel within India to promote women’s polo. Of the 50 or so women players in India, approximately 40 are registered members of Chingkhei Honda and other polo clubs in Manipur. With the primacy of these amazing Manipuri ladies in the field of women’s polo in India, Polo Yatra has also been bringing awareness to the Manipuri Pony and national and international attention to this little known and easily forgotten area of India.

To understand why tiny, remote Manipur, is a leading force in polo, one must go even further back. Manipur is known to be the birthplace of modern polo, where a traditional polo called sagol kangjei has been played for centuries. Manipur continued to play the game even after early forms of polo in other civilizations such as China and India had died out. In 1854, a British army officer, Lieutenant Joseph Scherer of the East India Company was riding in the foothills of the northeastern edge of the British Indian Empire, where he witnessed local Manipuris riding ponies. To the Lieutenant’s amazement and curiosity, these riders were striking a bamboo-root ball with cane mallets playing the centuries old game they called sagol kangjei.

Flashing forward more than 150 years, in 2020, my teammates and I found ourselves playing regulation polo on the rugged, sturdy Manipuri Ponies. Of the many men’s and women’s teams that have gone to Imphal (the capital city of Manipur) and played on the “rough” field and stout ponies, most can attest that tournament polo on indigenous Manipuri Ponies requires a mallet close to 45”.


After three years of pandemic hiatus, the organizers believed they had the greenlight to resurrect the Polo Yatra series in 2023. Unfortunately, hosting and playing “pony polo” in Manipur was not in the cards for the women this season. However, Armstrong and Roy who had beautifully orchestrated and organized five previous women’s international tournaments in Manipur and four across India, changed gears and set their sights solely on tournament play in Hyderabad. In 2020, HPRC had hosted their first Polo Yatra international women’s arena tournament. And as in 2020, so too in 2023, they made sure two Manipuri players were added to enhance the IPA team.

Hyderabad Polo and Riding Club is known as India’s largest polo and riding facility. With over one hundred thoroughbred horses on the property, the club has ample resources to host international teams. All games were played in the evening, under the lights, to avoid the midday Hyderabad heat.

Armstrong has vast experience in organizing polo trips to India. He and Roy are relentless with their passion to support and promote women’s polo in India and, especially in Manipur, to use polo to publicize the plight of the “world’s first polo pony” – the endangered Manipuri Pony. So, after three long years, Polo Yatra came to Hyderabad again to collaborate with HPRC, for the second time, for the HPRC International Arena Women’s Polo Cup tournament.

Traveling from the United States to India to make up the U.S. Team for international play in Hyderabad in 2023 was Coach and Tournament Organizer, Ed Armstrong, and players, Sheryl Sick, Madelyn Cobb, Cecily Coors and Carolyn Stimmel.


We all met in New Delhi. The first day in India included sightseeing, visiting the impressive and massive India Gate, and watching a 20-goal game at the Jaipur Polo Ground of the Delhi Polo Club. The following day included one more flight and on to Hyderabad!

We arrived on February 27, at the Mrugavani Resort adjacent to the HPRC. The next morning was scheduled individual team horse evaluation. Horses were brought to the schooling ring where each rider was assigned four mounts to try, play, stick and ball and evaluate. That evening of February 28, the first game was held between the U.S and U.K. The U.S team lost to a very strong U.K. team – the 2020 Manipur tournament champion: Rosanna Turk, Alice Walsh, and newly added Kristina Karalieva, along with Lottie Harper as alternate. These ladies certainly know arena polo and made a very strong team. A press conference was held on March 1 with all the newspapers and television outlets reporting and conducting interviews.

On March 2, U.K. faced the Indian team. The IPA team struggled against powerhouse U.K.; however, they are a young developing team. Two of the players were from Manipur: Neelu Rajkumari (who played in Hyderabad in 2020 and in Polo Yatra’s first international women’s tournament in 2016). The other was Moirangthem Priya Devi, for whom this was her first tournament outside of Manipur. She is a promising young player who only started to play polo in 2021. This was the first time she had played a 15-hand plus horse in an arena. Chaiyya Vaibase and Jaithra Kakarla (studying in the U.K.) are local up-and-coming players from Hyderabad. Monica Saxena of New Delhi was captain of the IPA team.

The International Women’s Arena Cup final on March 5 took place between the U.S. and U.K. The British team once again dominated play in the arena, with superior penalty shooting and horsemanship. U.S.A. showed great sportsmanship and solid skills in all the games we played. While we were momentarily disappointed, we all played solid polo and would not give up until the last horn sounded.

For the U.S. team, the tournament had many more victories other than just the finals. Most importantly, helping develop women’s polo in India is about community, connections, and competition. Being a part of building polo tournaments and developing players in India is a very rewarding experience. Along with the International Cup, HRPC also hosted a Novice tournament. This allowed Cecily Coors and Lottie Harper, and the India women to play internationally on a level of their skills. All Novice Cup games fielded with men and women and were held in conjunction with the women’s international games. This allowed for spirited play amongst the host club and visiting players.

Coors was victorious for the Galaxy Team winning the Novice Cup. She enjoyed the mixed men’s and women’s teams and enjoyed the exposure of arena polo at a welcoming club. Traveling internationally with teammates and having a common bond of polo made our trip to India very fulfilling and rich. The gracious and over-the-top welcome for the international players was astonishing. From local dignitaries to grooms, everyone sincerely enjoyed hosting and meeting the ladies. The awards ceremony was a red-carpet event, where everyone was formally recognized and made to feel like a star. The U.S. Consul General, Jennifer Larson, who had recently moved to Hyderabad eagerly joined us at the game to watch and take part in the awards ceremony. His Excellency Raunaq Yar Khan, the newly crowned 9th Nizam of Hyderabad, hosted a lavish dinner for us at the Post Park Hyatt, came to the final match and joined the festivities.

I was very fortunate to be able to represent my country, play with amazing teammates, was awarded team captain, and was the senior player on the U.S. team. It was my honor to lead U.S.A. in Hyderabad for the second time. My heart swells with love and pride to have been a part of several new women’s tournaments in India. I, along with several other very fortunate teammates, have taken part in Polo Yatra’s obviously successful and growing leadership in encouraging women’s polo in India. Today, I treasure and reflect on the many wonderful memories of playing polo, touring and visiting India with fellow countrymen and other women players from abroad.

We ended our trip with a guided tour to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. This is truly a wonder of the world. The Taj has a very rich history, which includes love, family dynamics and war. The U.S. team thoroughly enjoyed the early morning experience of the breathtaking tour of the beautiful mausoleum. India can keep you humble, amazed and mesmerized all in one breath. Whether for a tournament or learning India’s vast history, polo players and travel enthusiasts who have a thirst for adventure to experience the richness of this amazing prideful country must tour India. To participate firsthand, travel and play polo in the birthplace of polo, has been an inspiring chapter in my career. To see where this equine game that is loved and cherished worldwide originated continues to hold extremely fond memories for myself and other players.