Polo success has earned aspiring professional Marcus Speed a Royal audience as he continues his rapid development in the high octane sport.
Marcus had the honour of sharing a stage with Prince William earlier this summer when he was asked to play in an under 15s mixed international match, the Novillo Astrada Tournament.
Competing against the children of some of the world’s best players, his team made it to the final which preceded Prince William’s match.
Before climbing into the saddle at Beaufort Polo Club, the Duke of Cambridge met Marcus and his team-mates and presented the trophy.
Marcus’ form also earned selection to represent Young England in a match against their Scottish counterparts for the Whitbread Trophy last week.
He was the youngest player by some way in either team, but despite defeat, he more than played his part in the match, played on his home turf of Rutland Polo Club.
The 14-year-old spent most of the junior season travelling, with the matches based mostly around Gloucestershire.
His team went into their section of the British Junior HPA Polo tournament as the weakest and youngest, but Marcus helped steer them all the way to the final where they beat one of the strongest teams.
The success helped the Edmonthorpe rider a call-up for the prestigious Colts Cup, played at the famous Guards Polo Club, at Windsor, and at Cowdray Park.
Marcus turned to polo after injuries picked up in a car accident stopped him playing his beloved rugby.
His progress in the sport has been constant since then, but he believes an invite to train with the junior England set-up last winter in South Africa propelled him to make even greater strides in 2017.
Marcus said: “I’ve had a great 2017 season, and really feel I’ve been able to put into practice a lot of the techniques I learnt on my development trip to South Africa.
“Being selected for Young England was a huge honour and even though we lost the match, I very much enjoyed the experience and getting to know the Scottish team.”
Marcus still has several tournaments to look forward to before the end of this season and hopes to use these to develop his young horse, Nero, in its transition from former racehorse to polo pony.
He added: “I’ve made more friends and contacts in polo this year and hope to be able to build on my success and make the most of opportunities that arise.
“I’m already excited about what 2018 will bring.”
Polo is a sport associated with the world’s super rich, and while honing his skills and developing his ride, Marcus also relies on the support of sponsors to compete in one of the most expensive of sports.
“I’m lucky to have been sponsored by Oakham-based Excellence Physio,” he said. “As well as sponsoring equipment and clothing, they have also helped me recover from playing injuries.
“My ponies have also recently been sponsored by Jane Sumner who provides equine therapies and has been assessing and treating the ponies to keep them at their best.
“We really appreciate the support of my sponsors and hope they are happy to continue their association with my polo.”