With the battle for the USPA Bombardier Pacific Coast Open, the most coveted trophy in the west, heating up … one might ask why do people play polo. Why, when it appears to be such a dangerous sport.
Polo’s history is steeped in military tradition. General George Patton and Sir Winston Churchill played polo. It was used as a training exercise for the military. But now that the horse’s relevancy to military tactics has been diminished by fighter jets why do we still play polo. For the thrill of it!
A player’s relationship with the right horse is the most powerful relationship you could ever have. The right mount for you can make you feel fast and powerful. With the right horse you don’t even think about the horse it feels like an extension of you. Conversely with the wrong horse all you think about is the horse.
Polo takes not only all of your physical abilities it takes all of your mental focus. You won’t be able to think about your dirty laundry when you are playing polo. I can play polo for an hour and a half and when I get off feel like I have been on vacation for two weeks.
Wesley Ru who was president of the Santa Barbara Polo Club for the past four years grew up in Taiwan with unobtainable heroes like James Bond and the Marlboro man. He dreamed of playing polo and would clip out pictures of the sport. When he told his mother he wanted to play polo she said, “Who do you think you are royalty?” Wesley grew up, came to the land of the Marlboro man, and learned to play polo. And you know what? He did play polo with royalty. Last year his picture was in the Santa Barbara News Press playing polo against Prince William. (So there Ma!)
Wesley says he what he likes best about polo is how it brings his family together. When his son was a teenager they played polo together and it gave them something in common to talk about. His two daughters now play also. He says, “We’re not billionaires and I have often thought about less expensive sports but when it came down to it, if I have to take seven jobs to be able to play polo I would do it.”
Local resident Dr. Richard Caleel who is the president-elect of the Federation of International Polo which represents 91 countries says polo is like an addiction. Caleel says polo is attractive because, “There is always a challenge with hand eye coordination and managing high spirited horses. The team play is rewarding.” He has traveled to 17 countries to play polo, often with his two polo playing sons. He has even played elephant polo in Nepal.
Sylvester Stallone played polo with his father Frank, has been quoted as saying, “Playing polo is like trying to play golf in an earthquake.” (See Polo 101) Stallone played polo until he couldn’t obtain life insurance to cover him for his films.
John Dellaverson who is one of the principals of Film Finances which insures movies and is married to polo player Leigh Brecheen says that there is a list of activities that actors can’t participate in and get insurance for the films – polo is one of them along with skydiving. John played one chukker and decided to watch his beautiful wife from the sidelines.
Leigh Brecheen, a veteran polo player who sponsored a team during the twelve goal season, says that if people ask her if they should play polo she tells them, “Cocaine is cheaper and safer.” She loves polo because, “The connection with the horse is so strong that you become one and it is your opportunity to become, in effect, super-human.”
Dawn Jones, who is married to polo player Tommy Lee Jones, started playing 15 years ago. She said when she first started playing Tommy told her she looked like a monkey riding a football – she is now one of the best female polo players in the world and is in Santa Barbara playing. Now when she takes to the field Tommy says, “May the horse be with you!”
The best polo players are the best riders and the very best play a thinking game. Dawn compares the mental demands of polo to playing chess. “If you ever find yourself riding around on a polo field and you don’t know what to do – try thinking.”
“Golf vs Polo”
To Stallone’s point: Playing polo is just like golf – except for the horse part. It takes the same hand-eye coordination with the same concept of open and closed face hitting and getting under the ball. It’s just a lot faster and if you totally miss the ball you have a team mate behind you who wants to hit it. It’s so fast you’re on to the next play before you can worry about being an idiot for striking out – in golf you feel like an idiot all the way to the nineteenth hole where you can drown your frustration.
On Thursday afternoon, in the USPA Bombardier Pacific Coast Open, Grants Farm beat Mansour 14-8 with Jeff Hall as the high scorer with 7goals. Lucchese defeated Farmers & Merchants 16-10 with 10 goals coming from the high scoring Adolfo Cambiaso.
Lucchese: 1 0
Grants Farm Manor: 1 0
Mansour: 0 1
Farmers and Merchants: 0 1
The battle for the coveted USPA Bombardier Pacific Coast Open trophy continues. The next matches at the Santa Barbara Polo Club will be played Sunday, August 26th at 1:00 and 3:00. Lunch and drinks are available for purchase at the events. The club is located at 3300 Via Real in Carpinteria. For more information call 684-6683.
The Polo Set is appears on Saturdays in the News-Press and is written by Santa Barbara resident, Julia Michelle Dawson, a member of the United States Polo Association who has been writing about polo for the past ten years. Email: email@example.com