SEHR SAEED - Unique Lady With A Zest For Polo (Last Part)

by Shehla Fatah

Love of Horses

Sehr completed her schooling from Karachi American School. Most of her schoolmates had diverse interests but their influence never dampened her zest for riding. Her engrossment in the sport and love of horses is so great that her spare time is usually spent in the stables, where the neighing of ponies provided music to her ears. Sehr had laid her foundations with riding and then taken up show jumping. She might not have excelled in this field like Princess Anne but she certainly attained knowledge about horses and stables alike. It was in this context that she vested England in 1981 for a four-week course of show jumping under the German Olympic team trainer.

During the course of training, Sehr suffered a serious fall which consequently resulted in fractural injuries. Shaken up by the experience, she returned home with inhibitions, being extra cautious with her pony. The following year, she was selected to represent Pakistan at the Asian Games in New Delhi but unfortunately, her inclusion was withdrawn due to allowing girls to participate in spectator sports. Disappointed with the state of affair, Sehr quit riding for a year. During this time she led a normal teenager’s life indulging with her friends in parties and get-togethers but by the end of 1983, she was back where she had left off. The only difference being an increased interest in horses which made her plunge headlong into riding activities. She would now spend most of her time with her coach in the field, but her attention was now centred around polo rather than show jumping.

During the early days of her training she was disallowed by experienced players from actively participating in the game, in apprehension of her getting hurt.

Up Against Prejudice

Being a girl, Sehr did face opposition from various quarters. Very few opportunities were afforded to her for playing, boys being given preference. But, Sehr did not lose heart and continued with her training, always hopeful of being selected by a good team. According to her, those who had not seen her playing had their reservations about including her in a four-member team. But in the course of two-and-a-half years she has played for Police, PIA, Army as well as her riding school “Shahsawar”. Though now there are a couple of other girls in the game, till last year she was the only Pakistani girl participating in the game.

Sehr dismally recalls the time when horse racing was banned in the country. She was then just a child and remembers the deserted appearance of the race course ground soon after the imposition of the ban. “There were no instructors or stable boys around, the stables housed hungry horses which had been left to the mercy of the circumstances by their owners.”

It was then that she bought her horse “Rif Raf” for just Rs. 5,000 though his actual worth was much more. She has devoted long strenuous years on his training, and the results have been fantastic.

Sehr regrets the fact that polo has suffered considerably due to shortage of horses, playing facilities, mismanagement and internal politics.

As far as the horses are concerned, there are only two stud farms in the entire country, located at Mona and Sargodha, from where the broad-boned polo ponies can be legally purchased. Both are government breeding farms under the authorisations of the Army.

Ponies here are categorised as grade one horse, VIP, VVIP, and VVVIP. Beside the first two categories, others are sold, while the best are maintained for dignitaries and senior military personnel. As a result, professional players are deprived of the best horses. Polo ponies are different from those used in races and tent pegging. However, many polo ponies have been ruined because they are used by tent peggers. The number of playing grounds is also pathetic.

Lahore has three grounds while Karachi has only one, which provides inadequate space for the large number of players. The other polo ground has been converted into a recreational ground, while the existing one gives the impression of a battlefield used by ancient Arabs.

The ground, on national days is used for war tank parades which ruins the tracks and months are spent in trying to reshape it. Over the past few years, some disastrous changes have come over its profile. One half has been taken over by the forces, and a condominium of flats erected over it. It would be long before the stables and remaining track is also utilised for similar purposes.

For people like Sehr, who have spent their childhood and youth in the precincts of the ground, the circumstances that are prevalent are heart rending.

Sehr Saeed has been playing polo in England for two summers, in the States however her playing activities are restricted, for females do not play the game there. She does ride around her college.

Sehr used to be a member of the Karachi Polo Club but due to prejudices was never invited to the club meetings. She quit the club and acquired membership of the British Ham Club of Polo.

In 1984, she participated in the “Governor of Sindh Tournament” and was given a special award for being the only female player.