Members of the last surviving polo club in London descended on Richmond Park today (Wednesday 10 June) to play their first match in the park in over 20 years.
Before the match, Shire horses helped prepare the pitch by mowing the grass. Murdoch, a nine year old Shire, was joined by seven year old Tom, who at just over 19 hands is the tallest of the herd.
After an absence of 39 years, The Royal Parks reintroduced the Shires in 1993 as a sustainable way to manage parkland. In addition to mowing, the horses' duties in the Royal Parks also include road verge cutting, rolling bracken to preserve grassland and chain harrowing bridleways and paddocks.
Adam Curtis, Assistant Park Manager of Richmond Park said: "The park has changed little over the centuries and where possible we try to preserve its traditions. Equine pursuits in London are not as common as they once were but in Richmond Park horses are still a familiar sight.
"Horse riding is actively encouraged in Richmond Park with 10 miles of horse rides and several local stables offering riding lessons in the park. Shire horses still work the land as they have done since the park's enclosure in 1637, and today we are proud to welcome back polo, the oldest recorded team sport in known history."
Nicholas Colquhoun–Denvers, Chairman of the club said: "The players from HPC London Polo Club are delighted to be returning to play again in Richmond Park on the old Roehampton Club Ground after a break of many years. The historical significance of playing polo in Richmond Park cannot be over emphasised as it was where the second recorded match of the modern game was played in June 1870 some 145 years ago."
Every Wednesday until the 1 July members of the HPC London Polo Club will be playing a friendly match in Richmond Park at 5pm and the public are invited to watch for free. The pitch is located just by the Roehampton Gate entrance of the park.