“Love and patience” – those are among the key ingredients for retraining a polo pony according to Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championship contender Sarah Chapman.

Her ride, Just Mary II, played competitively for eight years before starting her new career as an eventer and the combination are contesting the 90cm progressive section at Keysoe this weekend.

The 15.3hh mare played at some of the UK’s most prestigious polo grounds, including the Royal Berkshire and Cowdray, before turning her hoof to eventing.

Sarah explained that the mare previously belonged to an Argentinian ex-boyfriend. When they parted ways and he returned home to Argentina, she decided to keep hold of the little mare and see if she would take to a new discipline.

Now aged 15, Mary also survived a nasty kick in the field – resulting in a fractured foreleg – in the early stages of her retirement.

Sarah credited the help of Briony Holloway for making Mary into the eventer she is today.

“She is great and very relaxed until you put her in a dressage arena,” laughed Sarah.

She is super brave, has super kind eyes and you can point her at any cross-country fence and she will jump it.

“Briony said to me ‘if she isn’t scared of ditches, water or brushes, you will be fine – anything else is technical’.”

The pair completed the cross-country course clear but with 3.2 time-faults, which they followed up with a good showjumping round, just rolling one pole.

Don’t miss next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (8 June) for a full report from the championships