The polo world is in mourning following the death of one of New Zealand’s leading polo players during a match at Cirencester Park Polo Club last week.

Paul Clarkin, 51, was, according to friends, “playing a blinder”, and his team was leading 5-0 when he was shunted from behind by another horse and was catapulted to the ground head first. He was taken to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol with serious head injuries, but never regained consciousness.

Clarkin was a popular figure in the polo world, and known as “Mr Polo” in his native country. There he ran a polo club with his wife, Chele, although his equestrian skills were far-reaching, and he had also competed as a show-jumper and eventer, as well as being a keen huntsman. His son, John Paul, is a successful seven-goal player.

Polo’s regulatory body in Britain, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), were the first to offer their condolences, although the news of Clarkin’s death has sent tremors through the polo world.

“On behalf of the whole spot, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Paul’s family,” said John Tinsley, HPA chairman. “The thoughts and prayers of the polo community are with them at this very sad time.”

Fatalities in the game of polo are extremely rare, and this is the first death “within living memory”, according to an HPA spokesperson.