NAMEHazel Jackson
AGE: 25
HOMETOWN: Lymington, New Forest
TWITTER: @hazel8jackson
INSTAGRAM: @hazel8jackson

What does a typical day of training consist of? 
I’m always up early and a jog to the yard is a perfect wake up remedy. They say the early bird catches the worm, so I aim to get to the stables to check the horses at around ‪7.30am. There I do my checks to ensure they’re all well and ready to train, just as you’d do with any athlete. I take each of them out trotting for 30-40 minutes. This is a great leg stretch for them and also a great aerobic exercise for me!

Then we all rest for lunch. In the afternoons I’m out with each of them, riding and practicing turns and stops, imitating game play so that our reactions are on point. In the evenings I usually go to the gym or do a good stretching class like yoga or Pilates. These also help me focus my mind at the end of a day. Winning a match is as much of a mental battle as it is a physical one.

Do you have any pre-competition rituals?
I always take myself off for 10 minutes to focus. I make sure I’m prepared mentally by checking I have all my gear in order and that the horses are feeling good. Then I prepare physically by completing a full body warm up. Finally, I’ll listen to music for five minutes to focus and get my head in the game.

What’s your proudest achievement?
It happened last year when I captained the English ladies’ team to victory in a test match against South Africa. It was a great game and even though the South Africans had the home advantage, we gelled so well as a team and won convincingly. I think it’s any professional athletes dream to represent their country and I was so honoured to have the chance to do so.

What’s on your sporting calendar for the rest of 2016?
This year has already been a busy one. I’ve competed in three countries (Argentina, Barbados and Thailand) already. This is set to continue throughout summer with my UK season fixtures.

This summer I’ll be based at a polo farm near Cowdray Park Polo Club in Sussex, and travelling later in the year, hoping to play tournaments in Zambia, France, Singapore and the USA.

Where’s the best place your sport has taken you?
Barbados is one of my favourite polo playing and holiday destinations – it is paradise! The beaches are perfect and the locals are so hospitable. My favourite thing is to grab fresh coconut water from the roadside on my way to polo practice.

What’s been your biggest set back and how did you overcome it? 
With any sport you can experience great highs and lows throughout your career. My mantra is to learn from every experience. Being able to accept a failure, learn from it, and move on as positively and as quickly as possible is so important. Never dwell on what you can’t change.

Who was your hero growing up? 
My current hero is Argentinean polo player Hilario Ulloa. I aspire to be as great a polo player as him one day.

What’s your worst habit?
I’m a chocolate fiend and eat it in large amounts all too often!

Who would be your number one dinner party guest?
Lee Evans. He is my all time favourite comedian and would have me in stitches at the dinner table!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a sportswoman. Not necessarily polo – that was a natural progression after I started riding – but I’ve always been super active and competitive.

Describe yourself in three words.
Competitive, passionate and optimistic.