At-risk youths try hand at polo

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Flaxmere youths get the chance to turn around their attitude this summer with the help of polo ponies and a generous donation from the Eastern and Central Community Trust.

The Community Trust donation of $3000 will go towards about eight Flaxmere teenagers participating in a three-month course at Birchleigh Polo Club's Paki Paki site. The aim of the project is to help the students gain a more positive attitude and stay on the right side of the law.

The selected students will begin with a Saturday morning training session, and their involvement will increase as the programme continues until March. The youths will get the chance to work with the polo ponies, learning to groom and care for them, working their way up to riding and eventually playing the game.

With the help of experienced club members, the students will be put in a competitive, positive environment aiming to benefit the youths in the long run.

Club manager Richard Kettle says that success is measured by the rapid change in attitude, with the students quickly becoming more respectful as they enjoy the opportunity of being involved.

"They know that if they don't toe the line, they don't stay on the course," he said.

The Birchleigh Club has 20 ponies, about 18 members and many volunteers, and have the aim to make polo more accessible for those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to take part in the sport.

The programme, now in its third year, is run in conjunction with the Flaxmere Police Department and the Leg Up Trust. With the help of many volunteers, it gets students on the right track. The programme usually ends with a game where the students compete against a team of police riders.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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