Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Muck Bucket List: Polo


I picked my specific college because I wanted to be on the varsity riding team. It was the only thing that really made me give a shit about college, and it became my whole focus during high school. I didn't realize I wanted to be on the Skidmore riding team, specifically, until I went and visited my senior year.

We managed to find horses at graduation.

Snowy day at the school barn.
Of course, like all the best laid plans, I might as well not have made them because they fell apart immediately. I didn't get on the team, and on top of that I felt like the coach really shirked me, which stung.

The next day I was wandering around the club fair, realizing that I had been on campus a grand total of six days and it was already really not going as planned. I didn't know where to go from there. I guess I could've busted my ass working at the barn and trying to get into the coach's good graces. Then maybe next year I could score a spot on the riding team, but the whole experience really left a bad taste in my mouth.

And I might also be stubborn.

Somewhere between the student radio station and weekly yoga in the chapel, I heard someone say "Weren't you at riding team tryouts?"

Pre cell phone era: sepia
I was jolted out of my reverie and looked over to see who spoke. The sign on the table said Skidmore Polo Club. Honestly I'm not sure why this wasn't my first plan of attack. How many chances would I get to try polo? The Sport of Kings! I eagerly signed up for the info meeting the following week.

Charity game - only outdoor game I ever played. I scored a goal!
Polo conjures images of champagne, fancy dresses, BMW's, and perfectly manicured fields. That was not really the case at Skidmore Polo. We had a tiny, dark arena that I'm pretty sure most people in the area hated. We were not the best team in the league (at least when I was a starter. Maybe because I was a starter). The club was in a lot of debt when we picked it up and the string was getting old.

But everyone on the club was nothing if not passionate, and we all worked our asses off to turn things around. Not to mention we got to travel all over the east coast, meet people from schools all over the country and ride lots (and LOTS) of ponies. I developed a bond with my teammates that I haven't experienced since.



This was last year, when I had a mitten and couldn't play :(

I MEAN WHAT THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN




I'm in the black hoodie.
And of course the horse has purple wraps.


My favorite pony - Missy
Check out her markings!!
Sometimes you have those moments in your life where you see the tiny pebble plopped into the water that diverts the stream that feeds into the river that changes the ocean. Signing up for the team was definitely one of those moments. Turns out, getting rejected from the riding team was probably the best thing that ever happened in my life.

The club gave me so much. I'm lucky enough that I have the opportunity to be involved as an alumni. And club continues to change and grow; we gained 501c3 status and they're developing an interscholastic program. It's incredibly watching these young kids whip around whacking balls better than I ever could.

I don't know that I'll ever get to play again, it's just too expensive. But once a year I go back to my alma mater to gallop around like an idiot, hit a ball and remember all the sport gave to me. I learned lessons in horsemanship and sportsmanship that have followed me both in my continuing horse endeavors and professionally.

Plus it's just really goddamn fun.

20 comments:

  1. I attempted to learn to play polo when the barn I took lessons at brought in a polo guy. And then I got kicked out because I was too small on too big of a horse and he tried to trample the other kids on their smaller ponies and he thought I was doing it. I was sad.

    It looks like so much fun. I'm glad you snuck some purple in the too.

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    1. HAHAHA yeah running kids over is kind of a no no. but it's BS you got kicked out... you should give it another shot :P

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  2. That is awesome!! Did you ever play against Virginia Tech? I know a couple girls who played for them! I also used to exercise some polo ponies and they are some of the damn coolest horses around!

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    1. no I didn't, when I was on the team we weren't good enough to make it to nationals and that's the only time you really meet up with the big southern teams. I've heard REALLY good things about their program tho!

      and polo ponies are the f'ing greatest.

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  3. That's just so cool. It's amazing to me how momentous small happenstance things like that can be too. Bc I'm not an "everything happens for a reason" kinda gal lol.
    Also I tried polo once with Isabel and LOVED it. But..... Probably will not pursue with Charles the long legged haha

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    1. hahahah you'd have to get like a 56" mallet for his giant ass. I don't even know if they make them that big...

      I bet isabel was BALLER at it though, she seems really quick and handy.

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  4. How cool! I've always wanted to play polo and have been lucky to try my hand at polo cross bc of pony club :) when I was a camp counselor I did manage to scrounge up a game of broom ball "polo" with some of the other riding counselors and that's about as close to polo as I've gotten 😂

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    1. depending where you're located if you're near a school with a program most of them do cheaper community polo nights as fund raisers. I've actually got 2 (maybe 3?) right in the philly burbs. You'd be surprised!

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  5. What a great experience. A polo lesson is high on my lust of things to do.... how co-ordinated do you actually have to be though?

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    1. HAH I have the most crap hand-eye coordination so I'd say not that coordinated. I was never super good at hitting although I could get by. My strength was the riding, so usually when we played a string I would ride the crappiest horse and be more defensive so my teammates could actually hit off the nicer horses.

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  6. I've always wanted to try polo! That looks so insanely fun :)

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    1. its THE FREAKIN BEST. I can't say enough awesome things about it.

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  7. I love polo!! That is, I love drinking wine and tamping divots and pretending I have any clue what's going on. I definitely don't have any hand-eye coordination that would make me any good at polo haha.

    Though now I kind of want to try it.

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    1. hah yeah, the champagne aspect is definitely way up there. I've been lucky enough to squeeze into a lot of high goal polo matches to watch because I really do love watching. polo ponies are such beautiful, fantastic animals.

      also my hand/eye coordination is crap. I clocked many horses in the head. soooo you could definitely still give it a shot :P

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  8. I remember when I went to visit and interview at Skidmore (~1975...). I had had it up to here with Pony Club and the fussy show people but apparently I perked up when they mentioned they had a mens' polo team.
    Starting that first fall I searched them out determined to groom, clean stalls, roll bandages, or whatever they needed just so I could keep company with the horses.
    Lucky for me they were looking for women to sign up for a ladies team! Well yeah!
    And, lucky for me the coach choose the girls who rode like cowboys and didn't mind carrying a whip.
    We were scary our first game, "Dangerous" to quote one of the Norwich University students.
    Four years later we shocked Cornell into a loss. Yes! (Of course they put their second string in the first chukker, one of their first stringers next, two the third chukker, and all by the last chukker, but we had too much of a lead. Sorry! Not.)
    Once graduated I spent a number of winters as a polo bum in Florida, met my husband, and raising a family took over. Sigh, those were the days!
    All thanks to being able to ride like a cowboy!
    :-)

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  9. How cool! And I didn't know you are a Skidmore alum! I grew up just outside of Saratoga and went to HS in town. I still live pretty close to the area. Sadly I have only managed to make it to one polo match to date but we had so much fun and talk about going back all the time. Let me know the next time you are coming up this way!

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  10. Polo terrifies me! Peony is always trying to get me to stick around on Spot but I am like NOOOOPPPEEEEEE. I am bad at ball sports (go ahead, laugh away for allll the apparent reasons).

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  11. I didn't make the Skids team either. I did kiss head trainer's butt and it never got me on the team. So don't feel like you missed out there.
    I'm pretty sure I'd knock out my poor pony if I tried to hit a polo ball, but I love the sport! (As a spectator.) The polo team went to Asia this summer and if I remember correctly, they did really well.

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  12. I miss polo so much. Sadly I played a few years before you and don't have a lot of photos since we mostly relied on film cameras until my senior year. But It was so fun. I would love to play again.

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  13. That's really cool. I've been telling people that if I don't have a horse by the time the Polo team down here makes it back from wintering in the valley that I am definitely taking a lesson.

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