But playing alongside the failed fillies are success stories. One steed, Mabait has run 57 races – including at Ascot and Epsom – winning £194,772 in prize money. His owner, Team GB player Ben Berry, 26, is on his fourth racehorse.
“Thoroughbreds learn easily, they’re brilliant to have,” he says. “They like the freedom to go flat out and that’s what horses were born to do.
“Even if a horse has done terribly in racing, it will have a better life in horseball. If you look after your horse, he will look after you.”
All of the squad seem utterly devoted to their horses but are concerned about the future of abandoned racehorses in a sport that is struggling financially. “If we can’t afford to play, the horses suffer too,” Berry adds. “They won’t have a home or a job.”
The male and female teams, trained by Copeland and his son Stuart, competed at the World Cup in Portugal in August, coming sixth and seventh respectively. Self-funded, it cost each player £2500 to enter, facing rivals, such as Belgium, who receive government backing.
Jim Copeland has launched, played and watched the sport develop from his family stables, sacrificing work, time and money. Yet he is not defeated.
“You win, you lose, but you have a beer and laugh after. We are all that keeps the game going,” he says as I stagger up the dusty path to the gate. “Horseball is the hobby that becomes the obsession.”
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