Unlike many people who are brought up with horses, Mark was not riding from a young age, but used to help out at the stables a lot. Always happy around the horses, he didn't actually start riding until he was about nine years old. Part of the reason was that his father was always training polo ponies and his mum used nearly all the suitable horses for the riding school, so there was never a horse available for him to ride! At the age of nine, he finally started to ride out on the lead either with his mum or his dad, but he wasn't on the lead for long, within a year he was off the lead, and helping his mum take out leads with the riding school. It is safe to say that Mark started to teach from a very young age!
Growing up in and around the stable, it was
only natural that he would follow his father
into some sort of equestrian sport, and for
Mark, that would be polo, whilst elder
brother Steven preferred the trotters and
However, it was not to be an easy ride for
him, around the time he started to help his
mum, brother Steve was diagnosed with
hip problems and a routine check-up also
revealed that Mark had the same problems.
Fortunately for Mark, he didn't have to go
to the UK for treatment, and was able to
have his operation in Malta. Though the
operation was successful, there was no
guarantee that Mark would ever regain enough strength in his legs to ride again. That year, he and his family were invited to stay at a friends house in the countryside and Mark spent most days in the pool and the swimming helped the muscles to gain strength again - in fact,
when Mark returned to hospital to have the pins removed from his hips, his legs had grown so strong, that bone tissue had grown over the pins, giving the surgeons a little trouble to take them out! From those dark days, Mark never looked back, soon back in the saddle he began stick and balling with a couple of older horses in the stable, polo was already in his blood. At the age of 14 he took part in a juniors tournament, against a team led by current Malta Polo Club president Julian Mamo, starting a friendly rivalry that has been going on ever since.
After his first taste of polo, Mark never looked
back and continued to play on a regular basis on
Bobbin, Noni and Alagon, at the time, he also
helped his father in the stables. In his early 20's,
Mark helped to train a Tunisian thoroughbred mare
named Xamina for polo, and she became his best
horse for a short time, before he went to Ireland to
experience the game elsewhere.
In Ireland, he worked with Mickey Herbst, who
was setting up his own polo club, now known as
Polo Wicklow, a large part of this job was creating
an all weather polo arena.
Mark enjoyed his first experience of arena polo
and improved his handicap to two goals, during his
time in Ireland. He still has memories of those early
years, and jumped at the chance of being able to
return to Ireland in July 2004 to play at the Moyne
Polo tournament, where he met Paddy Casey, and
later in the year to play at the Inch Polo festival.
Returning to Malta after helping Mickey, Mark was re-united with Xamina, and then it was decided that Noni and Alagon should be retired from polo, so Mark joined his father on a trip to Brecia, Italy to buy some new horses. Unfortunately, they were not able to find anything suitable and returned home. A short time later, and Salvo returned from a flying visit to the UK, followed by 6 horses, one for a client, three for himself and two for Mark.
Marks first experience with Raffles was not a pleasant one, as she ran away with him! He switched with his father and took on Cicatrix with whom he built up an immediate rapport, Pampeta proved to be a little on the small side, but a client had seen her and arranged a deal
to exchange horses, and Mark began a terrific relationship with Marguerita - a problem pony for most people, but in Mark's hands she soon calmed down, known as Blackie in the stable, she was so calm she was used on the lead to Mark returned to Ireland for another season, and on his return met Lucy Bailey, a tourist with a great love for horses - she came to ride as she was missing her own two back in the UK. Lucy came that week to help out at polo, and returned for holidays every six months before she and Mark were engaged in spring 1993. Mark had several good seasons, one of the highlights was playing against a team from Guards Polo Club. He was instrumental in helping Malta to win the match, playing both Blackie and Chica, but also Raffles, who he was getting on with much better! With Lucy's arrival in Malta, Mark looked for
a job outside the stables, whilst Lucy took on the teaching in the school. Still playing from time to time, Mark had to stop for a short while due to work, although he still had some spare time to help teach anyone wishing to learn how to play polo and organised a beginners tournament for three years running.
When Salvo decided he wanted to
retire, Mark began helping a friend
with his horses, as Blackie and
Chica were now getting older and
not able to play. However, after a
year of helping his friend, Mark
decided that he needed to buy some
new horses to continue playing and
turned to an old family friend,
Vittorio Cuttinelli in Rome.
Mark and his Dad had taken some
clients to Rome to buy some horses
in 1999, but this was the first time
he would buy horses for himself.
Mark took a couple of friends with
him to buy horses too and has now
established himself as an excellent
judge of horses, taking over his
father's role. Returning on that occasion with Debbie and Gaucito for himself and Samantha for his father. Unfortunately, Gaucito died the following summer, but on Salvo's death, Mark took on Lisa and Samantha, his father's horses and become one of the best mounted players at the club. Fern came along later and gave Mark four excellent ponies to play on.
Lisa and Fern have now also passed on, but Mark continued to go from strength to strength, winning the 2005 Cawnpore Cup, and continued to teach occasionally, as well as running his own compay. While wife Lucy keeps an eye on the horses, Mark encourages new people to take part in polo here in Malta, and joins friends in Ireland to play in the summer when he can.
Mark is now consolidating his company's work in Libya and hopes to assist the equestrian people there in their goal of reaching higher standards of breeding, racing and competing.