Check out this article featuring our own Amy Gatlin!
Congratulations to our Boston team for winning the USPA Northeast Circuit Arena Women's Challenge tournament on January 8th, 2018! There was some tough competition, with Stage Hill coming in second and UMass following close behind.
Check out this article featuring our own Amy Gatlin!
Learning a new skill in a group can be daunting, but it’s the best way to learn polo.
The beginner polo group is filled with riders of all levels – from those who’ve jumped for years and are currently looking for a change in discipline to people who have only been on a horse before a handful of times in their life. Everyone is welcome in beginner group.
There is something to be said about the atmosphere created by everyone starting to learn polo together. It isn’t always easy, but there is a huge sense of camaraderie and support. That’s one thing I try to encourage as an instructor.
Polo is a team sport, so the beginner group focuses on drills that can get everyone working together. We start at a low speed, and then as the riders get more confident we repeat the drills faster. One of the drills we practice is hitting down the arena, and when you miss your partner comes up from behind and continues hitting. This simulates what would happen in a real chukker, where a player would hit the ball and follow through. If they miss, a teammate would ride up and try and make a play while they circled behind to support their teammate.
Every week in group we try to work on a new skill, or something we’ve found to be particularly difficult. We spend the first few minutes warming up and hitting the ball, then we work on some familiar drills finally moving into the new material. After the first week (when everyone is comfortable on their horse and hitting the ball), we do a practice chukker at the end of every lesson. This really helps everyone see where fouls might occur, what happens when someone fouls, and how to use the skills that they practiced earlier in the lesson in a real scenario.
The biggest part of the beginner polo group is that everyone is learning and having fun together. Sometimes people foul, sometimes people miss the ball, occasionally a horse stops in the middle of a lesson to poop and everyone laughs. There’s nothing quite like the beginner group to learn how to play polo.
There are two general categories of athletes, those that have natural talent, and those that work tirelessly to get to their desired level of competition. This is true for both human and equine athletes (with polo ponies in mind.) Those with the natural talent without the will and interest and being at the top of their game seldom last long in their athletic careers. Despite their abilities they lose interest and do not have the character needed for a career with both emotional and physical challenges.
There are two types of horses that become polo ponies, those bread for polo and those who become polo ponies after a change of career. The majority of polo ponies perhaps, are off the track thoroughbred race horses. Often Thoroughbred race horses are retired between 4 and 8. A small number of thoroughbreds are bred specifically for polo, with some bred, trained, and imported from places such as New Zealand, Ireland, and Argentina. Quarter horses make great arena polo ponies and generally good for 1 chukker on a grass field, but often do not have the same top speed as thoroughbreds and run out of energy on the grass field. There are also a handful of polo ponies that are arabians and other breeds including appendix's (thoroughbred/quarter horse crosses,), and other crosses.
Most polo ponies are mares, or female horses. Geldings have a reputation of being mellow, and mares having characteristics including having an attitude and being more emotional. Geldings can make great polo ponies but the aggressive and strong willed characteristics of mares make them ideal for an intense, hard fought game such as polo. A trained polo pony knows its job very well to the point that they will follow the ball and at times turn as the ball turns, push other horses away from the ball, kick the ball, and attempt to avoid fouls. To train a polo pony takes patience and slow introduction to the game and can take up to a couple years. Most trained polo ponies are 8-20 years old, with some playing into their 20s. Any given year there is at least one polo pony in its 20s playing in the US Open, whereas in most other equestrian disciplines horses at the top level of competition are much younger. Polo is relatively easy on the polo ponies body, with the basic type of work including long distance cardio on a soft grass surface.
Most of the polo ponies at Boston Polo Club are thoroughbred mares that are retired race horses bred in the US. At any time there may be one or two geldings that are another bread breed or have other backgrounds (usually quarter horses.) The ideal polo pony is smart and very relaxed and mellow off the field and aggressive on the field, making great horses for other disciplines including jumping, trail horses, and lesson horses. When not playing polo they are the sweetest pets, and when playing polo they know their job is to win and to protect their rider. The opportunity to experience the power and gentleness of a polo pony is one of the greatest things Boston Polo Club has to offer to the community. We welcome anyone during the games or at other times to pet the ponies, try riding them, and build a relationship with them.
Owning a polo pony is a very unique relationship, to me a priceless relationship. I often get the question “do the horses like to play polo,” and the question is yes. It is fittig that polo was originally developed as a sport to keep cavalry in shape, because the loyalty of the polo pony is the loyalty any Army would wish to command from its troops. That loyalty is not meant to be taken lightly, and the seriousness of the obligation I make to my horses is unparalleled.
I believe polo is a fairly natural past time for a horse: they are running around at great spead chasing the lead horse- just like you see horses do when they are playing with each other. Polo Ponies are very inteligent, and pick up on how the game is played. A good polo pony plays the game for the rider, and I always say that my ponies are better polo players than I will ever be. They follow the ball, try not to follow or step on the ball, and kick the ball at the most opportune moment.
These very intelligent and athletic creatures do't have a choice as to whether they will play or not, or who will own and take care of them. This decision rests upon my responsibility, and is a huge obligation. It is an obligation to to the horse and community to protect and care for the horse to ensure their long term health and happiness. To provide for them all the necessities and wants of life...not only to be fed, but to be provided a happy and safe environment in which to grow up and live. We have a relationship in which we put our lives in the other's hands (or hooves.)
It takes a very special bread of human, like horse, to be able to truly develop this relationship. It is one thing to ride a horse, own a horse, or play polo, but it is the true essence of being a man to have these characteristics of trust and respect. If I don't show value, respect, honesty, and open mindadness in my relationship with my Polo Ponies they will let me know. It is one thing to give birth to a child and another to be a father, and it is one thing to own a polo pony and be the owner of a polo pony. This is not just an obligation to my Polo Ponies, but also to my community and family. It is often said that you are like your pet (or your pet is like you,) and I am proud of my horse who all have the utmost integrity.
I wish to instill these values and understanding in my students, and my community.
Four teams entered our 2014-2015 Old Year/ New Year Club Tournament. The teams were:
Boston Polo School: Mark Tashjian, Elizabeth Owens/ Fiona Sills, Molly Hosler/ Beatrice Pforr, DownEast: Alex King, Oliver Keithly, and Lauren Bilsky, Northshore: Erik Christianson, Tessa Kell, Dale Eddy, Eliza Eddy/Annie Payson Alt Lex Pothul/Ben Seager, and TBM Restoration's Sam Clemens, Tom Maloney, and Caddy Yates.
Thanks to some scheduling feats we had some great games and participation. Nearly all games get the players, spectators, and umpires on the edge. The first game was played two days before Christmas between DownEast and TBM Restoration. DownEast started strong with Oliver and Alex scoring in succession early on, but the score grew close as Sam opened up in the 3rd chucker scoring 3 goals in a row. DownEast still came out on top 6 to 5. The second game featured Northshore battling it out against Boston. The score was tied 2 to 2 at the end of the first, and 5 to 4 with Boston down at half. The score spread out a bit after Mark hoped on his little chestnut Mare scoring 4 goals in the 3rd to NorthShore's 1 to end the 3rd 8 to 6, with the final score 11 to 8 for Boston. The 3rd game saw Boston play TBM. Another close game with the score 4 to 6 at the half, Boston was able to pull through 8 to 5 at the end sending Boston to the finals. The 4th game to determine Boston's competetor in the finals was between TBM and DownEast. The score was tied after the first 2-2, with Tessa scoring 2 goals and Alex and Lauren each scoring one. At half the score was 4-5 thanks to Tessa scoring another two for Northshore. Downeast outscored Northshore 4-3 in the 3rd bringing the score to 9-7, with a final score of 12 to 10 for Downeast.
The finals were played New Years Day between DownEast and Boston, with Sam Clemens and Jeff Header umpiring. The score was 4 to 4 at the end of the first with Mark and Alex each scoring 3 and Molly and Lauren 1 each. The game remained close with the score 8-10 at the end of the 3rd. Downeast tried hard to pull through in the end with Alex scoring 2 and Oliver one in the 3rd, pulling ahead by 1. Mark was able to convert another goal shortly after to tie the game up. Boston then drew a penalty with under a minute left, getting a penalty 3. The penalty went in but a mis-execution was called on Mark's team, resulting in a throw in. In the final seconds Mark brought the ball to goal but was ridden off hard and could not complete. Molly, close behind, finished the goal winning the game just before the buzzer.
All of the games were great to watch, superb umpiring, and the horses were amazing! Best Playing Pony went to Pastora, owned by Oliver Keithly.
On August 17 Boston Polo Shool had its 2014 Summer Classic Tournament, featuring players who participated in the polo school over the summer divided teams competing against each other. Three teams played with the Young Guns playing Boston's Finest in the finals. Both team's records were even going into the final chucker at 3 to 3. The final chucker was close with Young Gun's Alex sending the ball far down field so Annie and Tessa could shoot on goal but Lauren and Courtney several times shut down these runs taking out their men so Boston's Ben could take the ball to the other end of the field. Boston had several tough breaks with the ball going just wide giving the Young Gun's a chance to set up for the knock ins, again driving down field being ridden off hard by Boston. In the end this close game was determined by a goal by Tessa with just a minute left. Despite Boston trying hard to convert in the final moments the Young Gun's were able to hold onto their lead to win. Tessa was highest scored with 4 goals with two in the final chucker.
All those who played this summer in attendance voted in the best playing pony award, with the winner going to Denali with runner up Divine Brown. Honorable mention goes to Gringa, Lila, Stitch, Tsunami, Eva, and Jedda (all the horses played great.)
The Weekend of July 12/13 members of Boston Polo School traveled to Vermont for a weekend of Polo. On Saturday Alex, Mark, Tessa, Danielle, and Charlie played an exhibition match at Quechee Polo Club, near White River Junction, Vt. Boston Polo played against Quechee's Greg Frizell, Patrick Andrews, Chuck Weir, and Steve Leninski. Quechee's Patrick Andrew got the first goal, followed by Greg Frizell before Mark could notch up Boston's first goal before the chucker ended. The game remained within two goals until the fourth chucker, with good defense and teamwork on all parts. In the fourth Quechee scored one goal bringing their lead to three, without Boston being able to return any goals. In the fifth Boston came out strong with Mark on his pony Lila scoring a goal in the opening moments, followed by Alex carrying the ball downfield and scoring on Jedda, bringing the score to 8-9. Greg Frizell was able to make a long run down the field to get his team's first goal in the fifth, bringing the score to 8-10. Charlie backed the ball in the lineup to a wide open Mark who carried the ball through goal to end the chucker 9-10. The high altitude of the Green Mountains finally got to Boston's team in the sixth, with them only scoring one goal in the last chucker to Quechee's three goals, finishing the match 10-13.
Quechee's team hosted Boston's horses and players Saturday and held a friendly match at Charlie's field in Canaan, NH Sunday morning. We would like to thank the Quechee Polo Club for helping make this a memorable weekend. For information on Quechee Polo Club visit http://www.quecheeclub.com.
From September-May they may be bitter rivals, but during the Summer players from several intercollegiate and interscholastic polo teams come together to to train at Boston Polo Schools. On Wednesday players from bitter rivals UVA and Uconn came out for a friendly practice. Despite Mark being a Uconn alumni he was able to stay impartial during the practice, though somehow Uconn finished in the lead.
All the horses and players played well in a Thursday international round robin against a team from Sweden. USA came out strong with Mark scoring the first goal followed by a quick back in the line up from Mark to JK who carried the ball down-field scoring the second goal of the match. The score was close the whole time. In the third chucker Sweden was trying to get ahead but was having difficulty with Alex backing the ball out of the goal mouth in the last second, and another big back shortly after to a teammate who cleared the ball out. Despite the great playing on all sides we ended up coming up short of winning the round robin. Players on both sides raved over our horses, especially Lila (and her stylish hair) and how well our horses played for Sweden.