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Table of Contents Aiken Polo Club 2017 P.O. Box 3021 Aiken, SC 29802 Volume 13-B, Number 2. Published semi-annually Editor & Publisher: Pam Gleason

10 11 14 16 18 22 28 34 40 48 56 62 70 80 84 90 94

Captain’s Letter Fall Schedule Accommodations Guide Jake Kneece Memorial 2017 Tournament Winners, Spring 2017 Tournament Winners Fall 2016 Growing Polo Rules of the Game Gear of the Game Duties of a Spectator Best Playing Ponies Copper Cup 2016 Skipper Perry Aiken Polo History Polo Facts Polo Glossary Historic Aiken Polo

Layout & Design: Gary Knoll, Aiken Horse Productions Photography by WarhorsePhotography.com Gary Knoll Pam Gleason Unless otherwise noted, All images property of WarhorsePhotography Š 2017 www.WarHorsePhotography.com WarhorsePhotography@gmail.com Editorial Inquiries: Aiken Polo Magazine P.O. Box 332 Montmorenci, SC 29839 803.643.9960 www.aikenpoloclub.org aikenpolomagazine@gmail.com Advertising Inquiries: Susie Kneece SKneece@bellsouth.net 803-646-3302 On The Cover: Connor Deal goes to goal 2017 in the Jake Kneece Memorial Final

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Letter from the Captain I’d like to welcome everyone to the 135th consecutive year of polo here in Aiken. This is an exciting time to be involved with polo in the city. We have seen several new developments that promise to ensure that our sport will continue to thrive and grow in our area. The most interesting of these is the growth of youth polo, which is happening here in Aiken through Tiger Kneece’s junior program. It is also happening nationally through several United States Polo Association initiatives that are encouraging young people to take up the sport and to stay with it. These programs are performing exceptionally well, and we will soon be seeing a whole new crop of talented young players in our tournaments. From an Aiken perspective, we are also fortunate to be in a city where polo is considered an important part of our heritage and where we have so much appreciation and support. It was through cooperation with the city that we were able to construct the Alan Lyle Corey III viewing pavilion that enhances our spectators’ enjoyment and adds to the atmosphere at historic Whitney Field. We are proud to be one of Aiken’s most distinctive attractions. For the past few decades, ours has not been the only polo club in town. In fact, at one point about ten years ago, we had as many as seven polo clubs in Aiken County. We had more players then, too, and there was plenty of polo for everyone. In recent years, the numbers of clubs and players have declined, but we were sometimes left with scheduling conflicts between the remaining clubs, making it hard for some players to get to all their games. This year, encouraged and supported by our players and the club development arm of the United States Polo Association, Aiken Polo Club is cooperating with the other two active clubs in Aiken County, New Bridge and Wagener, to coordinate schedules and make polo easier for everyone.

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Much of that coordination falls to our new manager, Bill Raab, a polo professional, player and umpire, who is also the owner and manager of Wagener Polo Club. Bill has been working with the schedules at APC and Wagener and in consultation with Haley Bryan and Raza Kazmi at New Bridge to make everything go smoothly for all our valued players. We welcome Bill and are looking forward to another active spring and fall polo season here on Aiken’s fields. There have been some changes here at Aiken Polo Club this spring. The major one is that our Sunday games, which have traditionally been held at 3 p.m., have been moved ahead to 1 p.m. This will make it easy for players and spectators to attend polo at Whitney Field and then drive over to New Bridge for their Sunday game, which begins at 4. We know this change might take some getting used to, but on the positive side, it will be a little cooler for our players on hot days, and spectators can consider Sundays at polo to be an Aiken form of the traditional Sunday brunch. Thank you to all our spectators, fans, patrons and sponsors. Thank you especially to our players, along with their support staffs and their horses. Without them, no polo would be possible.

Aiken Polo Club has been playing on Whitney Field since 1882. Need more information? Visit our website www. aikenpolo.org. For daily updates call the hotline: 803-643-3611. Find us in Facebook and follow us on Twitter, too.


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Shop catofashions.com Pam Gleason


Aiken Accommodations Guide

Aiken is a wonderful place to play, a fantastic place to visit. Where to stay? PLan your visit here.

HOTELS DOWNTOWN The Carriage House Inn 139 Laurens St. NW 803-644-5888 Cottage Rose Guest House 324A Park Ave SE 803-645-0324 Hotel Aiken 235 Richland Ave. West 803-648-4265/ Toll Free: 877-817-6690 Rose Hill Estate 221 Greenville St. NW 803-648-1181 The Willcox 100 Colleton Ave. SW 803-648-1898/ Toll Free: 877-648-2200

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HOTELS AROUND TOWN America’s Best Value Inn 2577 Whiskey Rd. 803-641-8800

Sleep Inn 1002 Monterey Drive 803-644-9900

Clarion Hotel 155 Colonial Parkway 803-648-0999

TownePlace Suites 1008 Monterey Drive (803) 641-7373 803-641-8800

Country Inn & Suites 3270 Whiskey Rd. 803-649-4024

BED & BREAKFAST 208 Abbeville Bed and Breakfast 208 Abbeville Ave. NW (803) 649-3109

Econo Lodge 3560 Richland Ave. 803-649-3968 Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott 185 Colony Parkway 803-648-7808 Hampton Inn Tamil Drive at Whiskey Rd. South 803-648-2525

Briar Patch Bed & Breakfast 544 Magnolia St. SE 803-649-2010 White House Inn Bed & Breakfast 240 Newberry St. SW 803-649-2935

Hilton Garden Inn 350 East Gate Drive 803-641-4220

RENTALS

Howard Johnson’s 1936 Whiskey Rd. South 803-649-5000

Aiken Luxury Rentals 215 Grace Ave SE 803-648-2804

Inn at Houndslake 897 Houndslake Dr. (803) 648-9535 Knights Inn 1850 Richland Avenue West 803-648-6821 Quality Inn 3608 Richland Ave. W. 803-641-1100

Annie’s Inn Bed & Breakfast 3082 Charleston Hwy. (in Montmorenci) 803-649-6836

Arbor House Rental Lauren’s Street SW 8032926968 Laurens Street Apartment 151 Laurens St. NW 803-292-6968

Background photo: Pool, interior and front porch of The Willcox, one of Aiken’s most iconic hotels


Jake Kneece Memorial

Written by Pam Gleason Photography by Pam Gleason & Gary Knoll

The Jake Kneece Memorial Tournament was played for the first time at Aiken Polo Club this May 19-28. The tournament was established to honor the memory of Julian Pace Kneece IV, who was the son of Pace and Barbara Kneece. Pace, Barbara and their daughter Lindsay sponsored the tournament as a way of giving back to the horse community and as a tribute to Jake’s generous and caring spirit. Jake died in November 2011 at the age of 27. The Kneeces own and run Aiken County Farm Supply on Park Avenue in Aiken. Established in the 1960s by J.P. Kneece Jr., Pace’s father, ACFS started out with items for farmers and gardeners. When the equestrian world began to grow in Aiken, the store adapted to the times, selling an increasing array of horse feeds, hays and supplies. Today, it has a full assortment of horse health items as well as varieties of hay, many different brands of horse and other farm animal feed, a selection of vegetables for planting and other gardening items. “Jake was a big part of the business,” said Pace. “Our intention, mine and Barbara’s, was for Jake and Lindsay to run the business after we retired. That changed. But we always try to give back to the community as much as we can, not just to polo but to the Aiken Steeplechase and the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. That is why we decided to have the tournament.” Jake was an animal lover and a big supporter of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, and today there is a room dedicated to him in the facility. His family also established a tradition of doing random acts of kindness in his memory every year on the anniversary of his death, November 5. “He was a great son,” said Pace. “I wish he would have been here with us for longer. But we will see him again someday.” The tournament itself, a 4-goal, attracted several teams with players who were united in their desire to honor Jake. Some of the professional players put together their own teams and played without a fee. El Cedro Azul/ Banks Mill Feed teamed Gabriel Crespo, an established professional player, with Kylie Sheehan and Connor

Deal who are members of Team USPA, the United States Polo Association’s training program for aspiring young players. The fourth member of the team was Malia Bryan, a teenager who also played this year in the National Youth Tournament Series where she was named an All Star. El Cedro Azul/Banks Mill beat all comers to make it to the Sunday finals on Whitney Field. There, they faced Livin’ the Vision, an extremely tough foursome put together by Scott Brown. In their first meeting, El Cedro Azul/Banks Mill had eked out a narrow, 6.5-5 victory. By finals Sunday, however, Livin the Vision was working smoothly as a team, and they were pretty much unstoppable, shutting out their young adversaries until

late in the second half on the way to a decisive 7-4.5 victory. At the trophy presentation, there were Best Playing Pony and MVP honors for both amateurs and professionals. On the pro side, Matthew Fonseca, who seemed to be everywhere for Livin’ the Vision, was the MVP, while Gabriel Crespo’s Encemado was the BPP. On the amateur side, Malia Bryan took MVP honors while the horse she rode in the third chukker, Rhyo, owned by Owen Rinehart, was the BPP. It should be no wonder that the Livin’ the Vision team was dominant in the tournament. After all, the 4-goal team would become a 6-goal team on June 1, since both Jesus Ontiveros and his brother Manuel Ontiveros Lara would go up a goal, Jesus from 2 to 3 and Manuel from 0 to 1. By next January, it will be a 7 goal team, since Matthew Fonseca is scheduled to go back up from 2 to 3 on January 1.


Other Tournament Winners, Spring 2017

Dogwood Cup 2 Goal

Runners up: Trapeze: Luis Carrion, Chilo Cordova, Richard Burkez, Dennis Freeland. Winners: Livin the Vision: Dan McCarthy, Jesus Ontiveros, Will Donahey, Scott Brown.

USPA Congressional Cup 4 Goal

Winners: Taylor BMW: Antonio Galvan, Liv Stringer, Nick Galvan, Nate Berube. Photo by George Buggs.


USPA Sportsmanship Cup 6 Goal

Winners: Blackberg Ranch: Mason Sease, Chilo Cordova, Horacio Onetto, Derek Berg. With the Mellow Mushroom owners and mascot.

USPA Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame 2-Goal Winners: El Cedro Azul. Kathy Iverson, Kylie Sheehan, Gabriel Crespo, Rick Hartnett. With George and Brenda duPont from the National Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame. Photo by George Buggs.


Tournament Winners, Fall 2016

Governor’s Cup 6 Goal. September 19-October 2 LBL/Golds Dragoons defeated Hutchinson/Whiskey Victor 6-4. Luis Galvan, Marcos Onetto, Alison Patricelli, Richard Terbrusch. Peter Christensen of Taylor BMW presenting. MVP Luis Galvan; BPP: Remy played by Jason Wates.

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USPA Copper Cup 12 Goal. September 23-October 9 Bendabout defeated Crestview Genetics. Hope Arellano, Gillian Johnston, Del Walton, Julio Arellano. MVP Del Walton BPP: Rubia played by Hugo Lloret.

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Corey Cup 4 Goal. September 23-October 9

Livin’ the Vision defeated Woodlawn. Jesus Ontiveros, Jacob Brown, Scott Brown, Tyler Morris. MVP Jesus Ontiveros. BPP: Coconut played by Omar Cepeda

USPA Officer’s Cup 8 Goal. October 7-23

Hutchinson Farm defeated Hyde Park/Peachtree. Charlie Hutchinson, Jason Wates, Pedro Lara, Kegan Walsh. MVP: Pedro Lara. BPP: Remy played by Jason Wates. Charlie & Tara Bostwick presenting.

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Cup of Aiken 8 Goal. October 25-November 6

SD Farm defeated Peachtree/Good Thunder. Pancho Ramirez, Sayyu Dantata, Connor Deal, Peco Polledo. Peter Christensen of Taylor BMW presenting. MVP: Sayyu Dantata, BPP: Vala played by Horacio Onetto.

Middle School Tournament

Enviroscape. Aiden Meeker, Josh Escapite, Gracie Brown. BPP: Carolina played by Parker Daniels. USPA All Stars Pictured Below: Anna Hale, Gracie Brown, Parker Daniels, Summer Kneece

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USPA Women’s Challenge A

Hyde Park/Starfish defeated Pizza Joint/Playoffs. Kylie Sheehan, Amy Flowers, Cecelia Cochran, Malia Bryan. MVP Malia Bryan. BPP: Elanor played by Courtney Asdourian.Wendi Smith presenting.

USPA Women’s Challenge B

Autotech/The Aiken Horse defeated Whiskey Victor. Kathy Rhoad, Pam Gleason, Tessa Lord Walton, Maria Cepeda, MVP: Maria Cepeda. BPP: Picasso played by Katie Johnson.

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Growing the Sport of Polo From the grassroots up by Pam Gleason

T

iger Kneece started playing polo in Aiken when he was 10 years old. This was during the early 1980s when Aiken Polo Club was experiencing a downturn in membership. The old families that had sustained the club in previous decades had aged out or moved away. In order to keep the polo tradition going, Aiken needed to find new blood. Fortunately, some devoted players from the older generation, most notably Tom Biddle and David Widener, had the energy and the initiative to attract and train new recruits. They started with people who were already members of Aiken’s equestrian community. Tiger’s father Gene was a foxhunter, and he and Tiger were both brought into the sport. “There wasn’t a formal polo school or a youth program or anything like that,” says Tiger. “We mostly relied on the generosity and the knowledge of the more experienced players.” Tiger was one of a number of young players who took up polo at that time. Tommy Biddle, two years his senior, started playing then, as did David Widener Jr. and Devane Batchelor, whose father Doug also got the polo bug. Tiger, Tommy, David and Devane made up the “Young Aiken” team (a tribute to a team of young Aiken players in the 1920s who called themselves the “Old Aiken” team.) The four young men were featured on the cover of the 1985 edition of the Aiken Polo Club magazine, with a note inside saying that the team had not yet been defeated in its three years of play. “We got a little rivalry going with the Limehouses from Charleston, who were the same age,” says Tiger. “We used to go down there and play with them and they would come up here, and that’s how our friendship got started.” Aiken’s mid-1980s polo revival was successful, bringing in many new players, including adults as well as young players. Tommy Biddle and Tiger Kneece would go on to professional polo careers, playing in all the top tournaments in the country and winning numerous awards and accolades.

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The new adult players mostly stayed in Aiken, participating in local matches and tournaments. Tiger retired from playing professionally a few years ago, but soon found himself called upon to help with a youth polo program in Wyoming during the summers. Then, in 2015, he started his own youth program in Aiken. He offered free polo lessons and hoped to have a big turnout. But, as he related at the recent National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) qualifier match in Aiken, his first few lessons were not exactly as he expected. “We had two players. One of them was my daughter Summer, and the other was a girl who had never seen polo before and was left-handed.” Despite this somewhat inauspicious beginning, there was steady growth and, before long, enthusiastic participation. Tiger estimates that about 100 young players have come through his program in the past two and a half years and that on average he has about 20 to 25 students at any one


According to Kris Bowman, who has been the executive director of USPA Club Development, LLC for a decade, clubs around the country have been experiencing similar challenges. Much of this has to do with the fact that the group of players that were very active in the 1980s and 1990s is aging out of the sport, as well as with changes in polo itself. In the first decade of the 2000s, there was a continuing trend toward more professional polo, with fewer opportunities for low goal players who do not have the interest or the means to hire professionals and play in the medium or the high goal. Many clubs have been Michael Bradford, a polo natural having trouble with finances, as well as with time. The majority of the serious students now have succession planning: most have tended their own horses, which Tiger helped them select. to take things as they come, with little thought As evidenced by their confident, knowledgeable for who is going to replace retiring players in the riding and stick work in the Aiken NYTS qualifier future and without a blueprint for growing their this April, many of them are becoming talented memberships. players. NYTS is a program that was started by Kris Bowman and others at the USPA have the United States Polo Association in 2014 to been working to reverse these trends and encourage youth participation. It holds qualifier revitalize polo on many different levels. One way tournaments around the country from which it is through a variety of organized programs for selects All Star players. These players are eligible to young players. These include Team USPA, which represent their region in the national finals, held is a comprehensive training program for aspiring at a different location each year. The Aiken NYTS players and professionals. Another way is through qualifier this spring was the second largest ever, with strengthening the Interscholastic/Intercollegiate 28 young players participating at three levels. programs. The NYTS tournaments were created With Aiken’s youth program on solid footing, to give young players more opportunities to play this year Tiger is expanding, creating a new polo on the grass (intercollegiate and interscholastic school called Polo Adventures. There are some polo is in the arena.) And the new middle school younger people in this program, but Tiger is gearing tournaments were devised for younger players, who it to more mature prospective players who might be can enter as individuals rather than as teams. The in a position to make an immediate investment in first middle school tournament was held in Aiken the sport. last fall and was a resounding success. “We need a few people to fall in love with polo “We’ve had huge growth in youth polo,” says Kris. and go out and buy four horses and join the club,” “It’s up over 300 percent. But we’re not just focused he says. “We’re in a similar position to when I on the youth. Our overall plan is to strengthen first started. The club needs more new members clubs. We can’t grow the membership until we and we have to do something to make sure that strengthen the clubs: we want to stabilize them and happens.” He points out that the membership has make them sustainable.” been declining, along with participation in club One of the things the USPA has been doing is tournaments. Not much more than a decade ago, encouraging clubs that are in the same area to form Aiken’s tournaments attracted as many as 24 teams. cooperative associations so that tournaments at These days, the club is happy with six or eight. different clubs are not conflicting with one another. Aiken Polo Club 2017

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This is a step that Aiken Polo Club took this year when it entered into an arrangement with New Bridge and Wagener Polo Clubs to coordinate tournament games and game times. Working with New Bridge does entail some changes at Aiken – the main one being that the Sunday game, traditionally at 3 p.m., is now held at 1 p.m., to give players and their support staffs the ability to play in both the Aiken and the New Bridge Sunday games if they have to.

Aiden Meeker and Summer Kneece in a rideoff

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” says Kris. The USPA also started a polo instructor certification program last year. “It’s completely focused on safety,” says Kris. “We figured that the best thing we could do was to get people safely into polo. Once you get in safely you might go train with another professional.” The certified polo instructor program is rigorous, including such things as CPR training, rules tests and background checks. “It’s a fairly extensive program,” Kris continues, noting that Aiken has several qualified instructors. These include Ken Cresswell, who teaches at the Fire Star 30

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arena in Wagener, as well as John Gobin, a 5-goal professional with decades of playing and teaching experience. Other local instructors, such as Tiger Kneece, Liv Stringer and Nate Berube, are going through the certification process now. Other initiatives being explored by the USPA include possible new incentives for players, such as the ability to earn individual points for year-end awards, as well as various ways to encourage polo at the grassroots, amateur level. To help support training initiatives and innovation in the clubs, the USPA gives out annual development grants (PDI grants.) Aiken Polo Club has benefitted from PDI grants, as has Tiger Kneece, who applied for one for his polo school. “We doubled the amount of money for the PDI grants that we gave out this year,” says Kris, explaining that the USPA received 118 applications and funded 108 of them. The total amount granted was $750,000 – a respectable sum. The money for these grants comes from revenues generated by USPA Properties, the highly profitable global merchandising subsidiary of the association. As far as growing polo in Aiken goes, the seeds have been planted, and it will only be a matter of time before a new crop of players takes to Whitney Field. Some of the young players from Tiger’s program demonstrated their growing talents in exhibition chukkers on Whitney Field last year and the year before, and the amount of improvement they have shown this year is impressive to say the least. Young players who were trotting and taking half swings two years ago are riding off at a gallop – and scoring – this year. There are also a number of adult polo students getting their first taste of the “polo drug” who will likely be out on the fields before long. “It’s so satisfying when you see a person get on a horse and discover polo,” says Tiger. “I had a student the other day, and we played a little walk-trot keepaway, and you could see him get that little addiction – he was hooked. It reminded me of the days when I was first starting, when it was so exciting. Every day, I couldn’t wait to get back on a horse and hit that little white ball again.” The next Aiken polo revival sounds as if it is underway.


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Rules of the Game

Written by Pam Gleason Photography by Pam Gleason & Gary Knoll “Let others play at other things, the King of Sports is the Sport of Kings.” Ancient Persian Inscription.

E

ight players, two umpires, ten horses, eight mallets, two whistles, a vast green field and a little white ball. That’s what it takes to have a chukker of polo. Of course, at a polo game, each player on the field has at least three to five more horses back at the trailer. Every player usually has a groom or two there as well, along with a trailer load of saddles, bridles, leg wraps and extra mallets. There are also flaggers at each end of the field to signal whether or not a goal has been scored and to place a ball on the endline if a ball is hit out. Then, there is someone to put the numbers up on the scoreboard, an official on the sidelines to keep time and blow the horn when the chukker is over, an official scorekeeper and the all-important “third man” or referee, who settles disputes between the umpires. Polo is a major production and a lot of work. For the player, however, the thrill of the game more than makes up for the immense investment of time and resources it demands. Polo, it has often been said, is not just a game, but a way of life. Once a person is bitten by the polo bug, all of the hard work surrounding the game fades to insignificance. The only thing that is important is the action on the field.

The Team

Each polo team is comprised of four mounted players. Players must carry their mallets in their right hands, whether or not they are right-handed. The first object of the game is to drive the ball down the field and into the opposition’s goal. The second object is to prevent members of the other team from hitting the ball into the goal that one is defending. Each of the four players on the team wears a jersey numbered from 1 to 4. The number refers to the player’s position on the field. Those wearing the Number 1 are primarily offensive players, whose

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job is to run to goal, hoping for a pass from their teammates so that they can score. The Number 2 is also an offensive player, but he must be more aggressive, breaking up the offensive plays of the other team, and putting “his nose in every play and continually forcing the attack,” according to the polo legend Tommy Hitchcock. The Number 3 player is usually the strongest on the team. His job is to hit long balls, set up teammates, plan the plays and make them happen. He also must cover the opposing Number 2. The Number 4, or Back, is primarily defensive. He covers the opposing Number 1 and generally “shuts the back door” preventing the other team from scoring. The Back must also get the ball to his or her teammates, often by hitting long back shots.

Handicaps

Like golfers, polo players carry handicaps. The handicap is expressed as a number of goals. This number reflects the player’s overall ability on the field, taking into account hitting ability, game sense, team play, horsemanship, sportsmanship and quality of his or her horses. Handicaps run from C (-2, or beginner) up to 10 (the best in the world.) A “goal” is how many goals a player is theoretically worth to his or her team, but has nothing to do with how many he or she might actually score in a game. (Scoring 10 goals in a game will not make you a 10-goal player.) Players are assessed and assigned a handicap in the fall and the spring after the summer


and winter seasons respectively. They normally keep their handicap until the next handicap meeting, though occasionally someone playing significantly above or below his or her rating has a handicap change midseason. To arrive at a team handicap, one adds up the individual handicaps of the four players on the team. Three 1-goal players and one 4, for instance, would make a 7-goal team. Tournaments are classified by how many goals they are. For instance, in this year’s USPA Governor’s Cup 6 Goal, no team on the roster may be rated more than 6 goals. A lower rated team could play in the Governor’s Cup, however. If, for instance, a 5-goal team played against a 6-goal team, the lower-rated team would start the game with one goal on the scoreboard. In some tournaments, the outcome of the game might be decided by half goals, which are generally not reflected on the scoreboard. Several years ago, the USPA addressed what it called “handicap compression” by establishing three half goal ratings for players on the lower end of the handicap scale. These are a B.5 (minus one half ), A.5 (plus one half ) and a 1.5 (one and a half ). As a result, sometimes one team is rated half a goal less than the other team. In this case, if the scoreboard reflects a tie, the lower rated team will actually be the winner by a half goal. Half goal ratings only count in 6 goal polo and below. The handicapping system keeps teams that play against one another relatively even and allows players of different ages and abilities to compete on the same field. Men and women are rated on the same scale and regularly play with and against one another on an equal basis. Handicapping also gives rise to the unique pro-am aspect of polo. There is very little purely professional polo in the United States. The most usual situation is to have amateurs hire higher rated professionals to play with them, thus raising the level of the competition. The majority of amateurs are 1 goal and below. Players

who are 3 goals and above are usually professionals who play for a fee.

The Field

A regulation polo field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide. Many polo fields (including Aiken’s Whitney Field) are equipped with low sideboards, which help to keep the ball from going out of bounds. Although the play stops when the ball crosses the boards, horses and players regularly jump them and keep on playing as long as the ball itself stays on the field. This is why polo fields are marked with a run-off area or safety zone. Spectators must take care not to park their cars or let their children or pets play in this space. Obviously, no one should ever attempt to sit on the sideboards while the game is in progress. Fields in the American South are usually planted with Bermuda grass. The better fields are sprigged with a Bermuda hybrid developed by the University of Georgia at its Tifton campus about 50 years ago. Fields must be mowed several times a week, and even every day, depending on weather conditions. They are watered, fertilized, limed, aerated, rolled and treated with various herbicides, growth inhibitors and insecticides. Serious field maintenance requires a professional crew, but spectators can do their part. At half time and after the last chukker of every game, everyone present is invited to come out and help replace divots kicked up during the action. This keeps the ball rolling straight and makes the game faster and more fun to play and to watch. “Doing divots” after the game used to be one of the most important duties of a polo spectator. These days, however, the field is generally put back by a professional crew which ensures that it stays in top condition throughout the season.

The Play

A polo game is divided into four or six periods, called chukkers. The word chukker sometimes spelled ‘’chukka’’ is derived from the Sanskrit word referring the turn of a wheel, which was presumably the way chukkers were once timed. Each chukker consists of seven to seven and a half minutes of playing time. The clock is stopped for foul shots, but keeps running after a goal is scored or if the ball

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Omar Cepeda on Coconut

goes out of bounds. If the ball does go out of bounds and rolls up to you, you must resist the urge to toss it back onto the field. The umpire will call for a line-up and bowl the ball in. He has plenty of balls in his polo ball bag, but sometimes will be happy if you give him one that you pick up. The play generally begins with a line-up at the center of the field. The umpire bowls the ball between the two teams (the “throw-in’’), and each fights to gain possession. Most of the rules in polo are based on the concept of the “line-of-the-ball.’’ The line of the ball is an imaginary line that the ball creates when it is hit. Generally speaking, a player must not cross this line if there are players behind him who are on the line and therefore have the right of way. This sometimes means that a player must take the ball on the left side (near side) of his horse, and sometimes means he is not allowed to make any play at all. A goal is scored when the ball passes between the goal posts at any height. When this happens, the players return to the center of the field for another line-up and bowl-in. After every goal, the teams switch directions. This equalizes field conditions,

but can be a bit confusing to the novice spectator, who may not understand why the team he was cheering for suddenly seems to be going the wrong way and shooting at the wrong goal. If the ball does not pass through the goal posts but merely goes over the endline, the defending team gets a free hit, or “knock-in’’ from the point where the ball went out. Defensive play in polo consists mostly of “hooking’’ and of “riding off.’’ Players may use their mallets to hook or strike an opponent’s mallet while the opponent is in the act of hitting the ball. Players may reach across their own horses, but they may not extend their mallets in front of, over, under, or behind their opponent’s mount. They also may not hook their opponent’s mallet when it is above the level of the shoulder, nor may they strike it with undue force. A player may use his horse to “ride off ’’ his opponent so as to push the opponent away from the ball or otherwise spoil his shot. Polo is a contact sport, and horses and players often bump each other quite hard in the heat of the action. However, it is a foul to bump with undue force, or to do anything that endangers the other player or his mount. If any player infringes on the rules, the umpires blow their whistles for a foul. The team fouled then gets a penalty shot or a free hit. Depending on the severity of the foul and where it occurs, the ball may be hit from the point of the infraction or moved down the field closer to the fouling team’s goal. If the two mounted umpires disagree on whether or not a foul occurred, they go consult the third man who acts as the referee. Filming and instant replays

Luis Galvan & Geoff Cameron 36

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Charlie Hutchinson vs. Randy Rizor

are innovations that arrived at some clubs recently. Important games are filmed with drones, and each team has the opportunity to challenge a limited number of foul calls each half. In this case, a special instant replay referee reviews the game tape and makes the final call. In most cases, however, the third man’s opinion is the ultimate word. Polo being a gentleman’s game, it is a foul to appeal a foul. It is also a foul to argue with the umpires. Umpires may call a technical foul on players exhibiting unsportsmanlike behavior. They do this by pulling a red handkerchief from their back pockets. If a player incurs too many technicals in a game, he is asked to leave the field and his team may have to continue playing three to a side.

The Horses

The animals used in polo are called ponies, but they are usually not really ponies at all. By definition, a pony is a horse standing 14.2 hands or below at the withers. (A hand is four inches, so this means 58 inches or below.) Most true ponies belong to specific pony breeds, although there are many individuals from larger breeds that could qualify as ponies because of their height. In America, most polo ponies are Thoroughbreds, and some began their careers as racehorses. Others were bred specifically for polo, and still others were imported from Argentina, where polo-pony breeding and training is a big industry. Aiken has a growing

reputation as a top place to breed, train and bring along young horses. Polo ponies generally stand between 15 and 16 hands. They are trained to stop and turn quickly, to boldly face oncoming horses, to tolerate fastmoving mallets and balls, to ride-off, bump, and run like the wind when asked. Players say the horse makes up 60, 70 or even 80 percent of a player’s worth. An exceptional string of horses can make the difference between a good and a great player. Conversely, a player mounted on a slow, sluggish, unwilling or unmanageable horse can be quite useless to his team. After all, you can’t hit the ball if you can’t get to it. Since each game is four or six chukkers long and a horse may play in one or possibly two chukkers, every player must have a minimum of two or three horses to play a full game. Most have more: one horse per chukker is a good rule of thumb, and many players have one or two extras as well, or even a whole second string. Building, conditioning and maintaining a good string is one of the primary preoccupations of players at every level. Everyone wants faster, handier, quicker, easier ponies. Top horses are hard to come by, and it is rare for a player to have an entire string of great horses all at the same time.

The Life

Polo was once the sport of kings, played only by the wealthy leisure classes. Today, although playing certainly requires a significant investment of time and money, it is played by men and women from many different walks of life, from England’s Prince Harry to the local veterinarian, real estate agent, blacksmith or fence builder. Polo can be played on many different levels and by players of all ages and abilities. Polo professionals and serious amateurs may play polo full time and year-round. More casual players might play on the weekends, or on occasional evenings after work. Whatever their level of commitment, all polo players share in the special world of polo; a world with its own language, its own worries and its own set of celebrities. They are united by a shared passion for horses, a shared commitment to the sport, and a shared connection to the traditions of the past. Need more polo info? Visit our website: www.aikenpolo.org Aiken Polo Club 2017

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Gear of the Game The Helmet is required equipment. The most common helmets are made of reinforced, padded plastic with a cloth or leather covering. They are modeled after the pith helmets that the British wore in 19th century India. Modern helmets are designed to fend off flying balls and mallets and to protect the head if the player should fall.

The Team Jersey

sports the color of the player’s team and the number of the position that he plays. (From 1 to 4)

The Bit controls the

horse. Polo players use many different kinds of bit. This one is called a gag and is the most common bit in polo.

The Martingale

is a leather strap that runs from the noseband to the girth. It keeps the horse from raising his head too high. Kegan Walsh

The Mallet is made of

malacca cane. It usually has a fair amount of “whip� and can bend quite a bit during a hard swing. The head is made of tipa, a South American wood. Both sides of the head are used to strike the ball. 40

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Leg Wraps & Boots provide support to tendons and

ligaments as well as protection from balls and mallets.

Polo plates are special, lightweight horse shoes. Made of iron, they have an inner rim and an outer rim. The inner rim is slightly higher than the outer one, making it easier for the hoof to pivot in all directions.


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Left: Richard Terbrusch chases Charlie Hutchinson; Top: Pam Gleason on the ball Bottom left: J.D. Cooper; Bottom Right: Scott Brown

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Top: Jesus Ontiveros vs. Chilo Cordova Bottom left: Dennys Santana; Bottom Right: Horacio Onetto and Thomas Ravenel

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Top Left: Amy Flowers and Pedro Lara, Top Right: Emmalyn Wheaton and Maria Cepeda Bottom: Tess Pimsner and Lito Salatino

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Duties of a Spectator

U

nlike most spectator sports, polo requires active participation. If you’re planning to watch, be prepared! Whether you are watching from the Alan Lyle Corey III pavilion, the bleachers or a fieldside space, remember the following points: 1. Keep you eye on the horses. Action often extends far beyond the edge of the field and some horses stop faster than others. The riders generally have great control over their mounts, but they are usually paying so much attention to the game, they often are not watching out for spectators. 2. Keep your eye on the ball. Polo balls are made of hard plastic and they might be going as fast as 110 mph. They often do fly off the field at speed. If one is coming towards you, get out of the way. Never, ever, try to catch it. Do not block it with any part of your body. Don’t throw it back in if it rolls up to you. 3. Keep your pets on a leash and your children close at hand. Dogs may watch the game, but are definitely not welcome to play it. Children love polo, but please do not let them climb on the sideboards or play in the safety zone during a chukker.

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4. Be prepared for the half-time divot stomp. Halftime is after the second chukker (in a four chukker game) or the third chukker (in a six chukker game.) Spectators are invited onto the pitch to walk off their picnics and help maintain the field by replacing clods of dirt torn up by galloping hooves and stomping them in. This is also a good time to chat with friends and show off your dress, your dog or your child. Just get back to the sidelines before the players return to the field. 4. Feel free to ask the players or officials if you have any questions about the game after it is over. Polo players are an enthusiastic group and love to talk polo. Compliment a player on his horse, and your relationship will be off to a good start. (“I loved the horse you played in the fourth chukker. Where did that horse come from?”) 5. Keep track of goals scored by each player on your scorecard. Remember that teams change ends after each goal. If the Blue team scores at the west end of the field, they will be trying to score at the east end in after the throw-in. 6. Have fun!


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Understanding the requirements and aspirations of dedicated equestrians is second nature to us at Cooper Home & Stable because we are as at home in the saddle as we are at the job site. So, when you are looking for someone to share your vision for your ideal home/equestrian environment, look no farther than Cooper Home & Stable.

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Best Playing Ponies, Fall 2016 “Now a polo pony is like a poet. If he is born with a love for the game, he can be made.” Rudyard Kipling, the Maltese Cat.

I

n Rudyard Kipling’s classic story The Maltese Cat, the title character is a scrappy little Indian polo pony who uses his love and understanding of the game to rally the other ponies on his Skidar’s team, propelling them to victory over the much wealthier and better mounted Archangels. The Maltese Cat was a polo pony through and through. Corey Cup 4 Goal. BPP: Coconut played by Omar Cepeda they might still agree that polo would be nothing without the horses. How much of a player’s worth comes from his pony? There are various estimates, usually from 50 to 85 percent. A great pony can’t turn a novice into a 10-goaler, but he or she can make a beginning player proficient, and help a good player achieve greatness. Players have been extolling the virtues of their best horses for generations, but USPA Copper Cup 12 Goal. Rubia; Hugo Lloret. He knew “that bamboos grew solely in order that polo balls might be turned from their roots, that grain was given to ponies to keep them in hard condition, and that ponies were shod to prevent them slipping on a turn. But besides all these things, he knew every trick and device of the finest game in the world, and for two seasons he had been teaching others all that he knew or guessed.” In the Kipling story, it is the ponies, not their riders, who plan and carry out the plays, and it is because of the ponies, not their riders, that the Skidars team is victorious. Although most players would be quick to dismiss this notion as fiction,

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Cup of Aiken 8 Goal BPP: Vala played by Horacio Onetto.


Governor’s Cup 6 Goal. and USPA Officer’s Cup 8 Goal Remy played by Jason Wates. polo ponies have only been officially recognized for about a half a century. In addition to a Most Valuable Player Award, most tournaments today also give out a Best Playing Pony Award. There is no record, currently, of who came up with the idea for this award, but it is likely that it has been given out informally for a long time. The earliest official record of a Best Playing Pony Award in the United States is the Willis L. Hartman Trophy, which goes to the BPP of the United States Open Polo Championship. This was first awarded in 1965 to Lovely Sage owned by Ronald Tongg.

USPA Women’s Challenge B: BPP: Picasso played by Katie Johnson.

Willis Hartman was a member of the USPA board of governors. He presented the award in order to “stimulate the recognition of the polo pony in the great game of polo,” and to “inspire each polo player to acquire the finest pony possible to use in playing the game.” Aiken Polo Club’s eight tournaments in the fall of 2016 recognized seven different outstanding ponies as the BPP – one pony, Remy owned and played by Jason Wates, was the BPP of both the USPA Governor’s Cup 6 goal and the USPA Officer’s Cup 8 goal. This is a tribute to them.

USPA Women’s Challenge A: BPP: Elanor played by Courtney Asdourian. Aiken Polo Club 2017

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Connor Deal 58 Aiken Polo Club 2017


Polo lessons • Horse rentals & boarding Team building events Contact Tiger Kneece at 803-646-3301 • tiger@poloadventures.net

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Copper Cup, 2016 by Pam Gleason Gillian Johnston’s Bendabout team showed up at the finals of the 2016 USPA National Copper Cup 12-goal as something of an underdog. Yes, they had Julio Arellano, at 8 goals, America’s top professional. Yes, they had Gillian, a 2-goaler whose accuracy when shooting on goal is legendary. And then there was Del Walton, an aggressive and hard-driving

by an impressive 8 goals. It was a hard road to the final field, but they had certainly earned it. Crestview Genetics, for its part, arrived at the finals after winning four games in a row. The team relied heavily on the superior ball control, dribbling and maneuvering of its three Argentine professionals: Pedro Manion (3), Joaquin Panelo

Above: Alan Meeker gets the hook on Hope Arellano; Left: MVP Del Walton wins the rideoff against Joaquin Panelo

3-goaler; and to top it off, Julio’s daughter Hope, a precocious 13-year-old polo phenomenon, who, at -1, is definitely underrated. But Bendabout had won just a single game in match play, against Kenny Ray Personal Fitness, the only team in the tournament that did not win. Then, coming into the semifinals in third place, they fired on all four cylinders to beat second-place SD Farms, undefeated in match play,

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(4) and Hugo Lloret (5). Alan Meeker contributed his own competitive abilities to the mix to make the team look extremely dominant. They earned a first-place berth to the semifinals with three wins and 10 net goals. There, they handily beat fourthplaced LBL Polo 14-8. Add to this the fact that a Crestview team (with a different line-up) had won the Copper Cup in 2014 and 2015, and you would


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Left: Mariano Obregon goes for the backshot; Hugo Lloret challenges; Above: Julio Arellano rides off Hugo Lloret

have to consider them the favorite to win again. But it is not easy to win the Copper Cup three years in a row. In fact, it has only happened once before, when Gary Knapp’s Kentucky-based Monticule — with three different line-ups — won in 1998, 1999 and 2000. (Gary Knapp, incidentally, was the breeder of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winning superstar Big Brown). And so, Crestview, despite its strength, had its work cut out for it. From the beginning it was clearly going to be a tough game. Bendabout drew first blood with a penalty conversion by Julio Arellano, but Crestview answered with two goals from the field. Bendabout came back on another penalty by Julio, but again, Crestview scored from the field to pull back ahead. Hope Arellano scored twice in the second chukker, once on a Penalty 2 and once from the field, but Crestview continued its offensive onslaught, with most of its goals scores by Joaquin Panelo. In the first two chukkers, it seemed that Crestview was pursuing an aggressive and successful field game, while Bendabout was simply keeping up on penalty shots. Then came the third chukker, when Del Walton caught fire for Bendabout. Seeming to be everywhere at once, Aiken Polo Club 2017

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he shut down his opponents on defense and went on a scoring spree of his own, notching three hardfought goals from the field to put Bendabout up by one going into the half. Although Crestview took the lead again in the fourth chukker with a three goal effort, they couldn’t hold onto it. In the final chukker, with less than two minutes to play and the score tied at 9 all, Crestview fouled near the goal, giving Julio the chance to put his team in the win column. His Penalty 3 shot was high, hard . . . and wide. Then, just as the chukker ended, Crestview fouled again, this time giving Bendabout a Penalty 5 from midfield. Five seconds were added to the

clock, but it wasn’t enough. When the time was up, the ball was in a corner near the sideboards and the scoreboard still read 9-9. Everyone got ready for overtime. It wasn’t a long chukker, but both teams had several opportunities to score and to win. In the end, however, Julio Arellano managed to get hold of the ball and to carry it around a crowd of defenders for the game-winning goal, an accurate nearside shot. Del Walton, who was responsible for five of his team’s 10 goals was named MVP. Hugo Lloret’s fifth chukker horse Rubia was the Best Playing Pony. The Copper Cup final was played on a brilliant, sunny fall afternoon on Aiken Polo Club’s historic Whitney Field. Just 40 hours earlier, however, the outside edge of Hurricane Matthew hit Aiken on its way up the Eastern Seaboard. It rained from Friday afternoon (during Crestview’s semifinal against LBL Polo) until Saturday evening, inundating the ground with water. Winds on Friday night were strong enough to take down numerous trees, but for the most part, damage in Aiken was minimal. It

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was also fortunate that rainfall had been low in the late summer and early fall, which meant that Aiken’s famously well-drained sandy soil was thirsty to take up the moisture, leaving Whitney Field dry and playable by Sunday afternoon. Hurricane Matthew had a few other effects on the game. The Central Savannah River Area was considered a safe place to ride out the storm, and so thousands of people who had evacuated from the coast were in Aiken on Sunday afternoon, and many of them came to Aiken Polo Club to swell the usual Sunday crowd. Another side effect was that the players and their horses pretty much had the day off on Saturday, since, while it was possible to take horses out on sets during all that rain, playing and schooling was out of the question. This unexpected day of rest, while it might not have benefitted everyone, may have helped a few of the harder working players. The MVP Del Walton, for instance, who is in much demand and normally plays every day, seemed especially intense and energetic throughout the finals game, exhibiting a tenacity and determination that carried him to goal and enabled him to shut down the Crestview attack again and again. “I was really focused,” he said after the game. “I knew we had to play really well to win it, so I just kept my focus.” But he acknowledged that one thing that was different about this game was that, after two days off during the storm, he arrived at the field feeling especially well rested. The USPA National Copper Cup, established in 1975, is one of the USPA’s most prestigious trophies. Played in Aiken since 2010, it is a highlight of the fall polo season, attracting teams from around the country. The Bendabout win was historic in two ways. It was the second time that the trophy has ever been won by a team that included two women he first time a team with 2 women

won was in 1992, when Vickie Armour and Sylvia Firestone were on the winning Southern Eagle team. Second, Hope Arellano, at 13, was the

youngest person ever to be on the winning team by several years. The tournament was sponsored by Chip Cooper of Cooper Motors in Clinton, S.C. along with Pace and Barbara Kneece of Aiken County Farm Supply.


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Shelley Onderdonk, DVM Veterinary Acupuncture

372 Langdon Road Aiken, SC 29805 (803) 215-3955 saonderdonk@gmail.com

The inside story on what it takes to be 10 goals, written by Adam and Shelley Snow, a husband and wife team. Find it in downtown Aiken or buy online. Kindle edition available. www.pololife.co.

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Top: Jason Wates rides off Luis Galvan Bottom left: Alison Patricelli on the ball; Bottom right:Marcos Onetto bumped by Barry Limehouse

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Over the Back Line, Out of Play Skipper W. Perry on Polo by Pam Gleason

S

kipper Perry says he doesn’t make it out to polo very often any more, but there was a time when he was an Aiken Polo Club fixture. Beginning in the late 1960s and ending in the mid-1990s, Skipper was Aiken Polo’s announcer. When he started announcing at polo matches, it was during the era when the Bostwick, Corey, Knox and Mead families used to do regular battle on Whitney Field. He saw the club through its Centennial celebration in 1982, its downturn in the mid 1980s, and into its revival in the late 1980s and 1990s. “I had a good time. I really had a good time,” he says. “Polo is a fascinating game, and I just loved it.” Skipper and his brother William grew up in Aiken. When they were children, their father used to bring them to polo matches every Sunday on Whitney and Powder House fields. Skipper remembers going there in the 1940s and 1950s to watch the high goal players. He knew polo was a thrilling game, but he also knew it was a dangerous one. He was in attendance on an April day in 1952, when Hazard Leonard, a daring 28-year-old player from Long Island, was killed in a crash during the first chukker of a round robin on Powder House Field. The Perry family lived near the club on Marion Street, and, although they were not horse people themselves, they were connected to Aiken’s equestrian set. In fact, Skipper’s father came to this country from Scotland to be a butler for Mrs. Fitch Gilbert, mother of the legendary 8-goaler, Pete Bostwick. Skipper’s father worked at Mrs. Gilbert’s “winter cottage” Red Top, across from Hopeland Gardens, until World War II. “In Scotland, being a butler was an honored profession. Over here, a butler was a servant, and he didn’t like that,” Skipper says. So Mr. Perry left Mrs. Gilbert’s employ and started his own business, a gas station called Perry’s Esso, on the corner of routes 1 and 78. “It was the biggest gas station in South Carolina. This was before interstate 95 was built, and before 301 was built. To get South, you had to 70

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come through Aiken and go by his gas station. If you were going west, you had to take 78 and go by his gas station. So we lived pretty good pumping gas.” After high school, Skipper left Aiken to join the Navy. When he returned from service, he entered college at University of South Carolina Aiken. This was when he heard about an opportunity to help with the Sunday games at Aiken Polo Club. “A guy I went to school with was doing the timekeeping. He was moving to Columbia, so he asked me if I wanted to do it and I said sure. Johnny Hosang was the announcer then, and he was a real character.” Johnny, a professional horseman and former polo player, had been announcing since 1946. As the 1960s drew to a close, he retired. Skipper, now established as the regular timekeeper, thought he could do the job. “They paid you $10 to do the time-keeping and $15 to do the announcing then,” he says. “Back then, $15 meant you could take your wife out to dinner.” Before announcing his first game, Skipper asked advice from Johnny. He also got out his reel-to-reel tape recorder and started practicing at his kitchen table. “I’d make the games up in my mind and announce them, trying to get a rhythm. Johnny told me that I had to understand that there was a lag time between what you said and what people would hear, and that you had to take your time, or people wouldn’t understand you.” Skipper says he started out trying to distinguish the players by writing down their numbers and referring to his notes, but that method didn’t work


well. What worked better was to study the players and get to recognize they way each one rode. Then it was easy to call the plays correctly. “That worked real good until the Oxley twins came to town from Oklahoma,” he says with a laugh. “They were mirror images of one another. That’s the only ones that ever threw me off. I never could figure them out.” Polo during the 1970s was highly competitive in Aiken. The club held national 16-goal championships and the polo families that lived in the city during the season played at a high level. Other players used to come regularly from

Columbia, Camden and Charleston. There were intense, family-based rivalries. “When the Coreys and the Bostwicks and the Knoxes got out on the field, there weren’t enough referees in the world,” says Skipper. “They were competitive, but they were clean,” he continues. “They wanted to win and they fought for everything.” Of all the players that he saw on Aiken’s fields, two stand out in Skipper’s mind. One was the 10-goaler Juan Carlos Harriot (“The most nervous I have ever been was when he was playing.”) The other was Lewis Smith, a 9-goaler who worked for the Knox family, and is often considered the first

true professional polo player in America. “He had the most magnificent style. He always wore a long sleeved white shirt and he made everything look effortless. He could set the ball down right in front of Mr. Knox and Mr. Knox would knock it in the goal.” Skipper says that another important thing that he learned from Johnny Hosang was never to point it out if someone made a mistake on the field. “You never wanted to sound like you were making fun of them, even by accident. If they missed the goal, I would never say they missed. I would just say ‘Just wide of the goal! Over the back line and out of play.’ Well, one of the players passed away, and that’s what he had put on his tombstone over in Augusta: Over the back line, out of play.” On a recent afternoon at Whitney Field, Skipper reminisces about his time at Aiken Polo Club. “My brother became a racehorse trainer, and I announced polo for 25 years, and we have been two oddities in this business because neither one of us ever learned to ride a horse,” he says. “Maybe I rode once at a dude ranch, but I don’t think my brother ever got on a horse. We used to come to polo all the time when we were kids, but we never did pay. We’d always find a way to get in. Coming to polo and playing in the Hitchcock Woods were the most fun I had growing up.” As he admires the new Alan Lyle Corey viewing pavilion, he remembers the simple tower from which he used to call the games, and the even more rudimentary set-up on Powder House Field (“the back of a pickup truck.”) Then he scans the commemorative bricks recently installed in the floor of the pavilion, looking for the one that he commissioned. It takes him a while to find it. “I wonder,” he says. “It said something a little odd. Maybe they didn’t do it.” But then he spots it in the front row. “There it is,” he says, with satisfaction, pointing it out. “‘Over the back line, out of play.’ That’s it.”

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Above left: Marty Cregg; Above right: Gary Knoll Below: Owen Rinehart

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History of Aiken Polo 134 Years and Counting

By Pam Gleason n the late 1800s, Aiken was famous as a health resort and a vacation spot. Not only did it attract many seasonal visitors from the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia, it also brought in hundreds of winter travelers from the North. By 1880, these “tourists” had established a Winter Colony in the city. They would come down on the train in November, pursue outdoor activities with a vengeance until April, then pack up and migrate home. Tourists came from Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and especially New York. In those years, horse sports were particularly in vogue. In 1876, James Gordon Bennett, an eccentric newspaper publisher, saw a game of polo in England and became fascinated with it. Returning to New York with a suitcase full of mallets, he introduced the

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sport to members of New York society. Polo, which has its roots in antiquity, caught on quickly and began to make its way across the country. Captain Clarence Southerland Wallace, a New Yorker and an executive in the Havemeyer Sugar Company (now Domino sugar) organized Aiken’s first game. That first game took place at the site of today’s Whitney Field on Mead Avenue. According to the March 27, 1882 edition of the Charleston News and Courier, the game was a gala affair attended by about 10,000 spectators. “Gay parties of ladies and gentlemen mounted on prancing steeds dashed over the countryside enjoying the delightful surroundings . . . . Sumptuous luncheons were served. . .The crack military company the Aiken Palmetto Rifles, entertained with dress


parades, but all this paled in significance before the brilliant and successful introduction of James Gordon Bennett’s popular national game, polo. It has caused a great sensation and revolutionized the city as far as amusements are concerned.” Not much is known about the very earliest years of polo in the city, but by the 1890s, it was a wellestablished and popular pastime among full time residents and winter colonists alike. Local historians generally credit the development of polo in the city to the Hitchcock family, who summered on Long Island and wintered in Aiken. Thomas Hitchcock, Sr. was one of the first 10-goalers in America and a member of America’s first international polo squad in 1886. His wife, Louise Hitchcock, known as Lulie, played herself, encouraged others to take up the sport and organized and coached fast and furious junior games of both horse and bicycle polo. Many young players nurtured in Mrs. Hitchcock’s junior programs went on to become the premier players in America in the

1920s and 30s. One of the Hitchcocks’ sons, Tommy Hitchcock, a 10-goal international superstar, was the most famous player in America before World War II. Today, his name is synonymous with polo greatness. He was also, incidentally, a friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and is said to have been the inspiration

behind the character Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Aiken was the acknowledged polo center of the South. Great numbers of high-ranked players came to spend the winter, competing daily on the 16

fields the city offered. The horse trainer Fred Post arrived in Aiken in the early 1910s and soon had as many as 100 horses in training, along with a stable full of young players to work them. Polo dominated the Aiken sports scene, and poloists who practiced in Aiken went on to represent the United States in numerous international matches. Famous players included the Hitchcocks, the Bostwicks, the Gerrys, the Posts, the Knoxes, the von Stades, the Igleharts, Alan Corey Jr., Harry Payne Whitney, Jimmy Mills, Russell Grace, Jules Rompf, Devereux Milburn and Louis E. Stoddard. It was the Golden Age of American polo, and Aiken was at the center of it all. World War II dealt a severe blow to polo everywhere. During the conflict, Aiken’s women’s teams held occasional charity matches to raise money for war bonds. After the war, regular polo resumed on Aiken’s fields under the auspices of the Knox,

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and Country Club, bringing with them more high goal polo. More and more players moved to Aiken, buying up old cotton fields, forests and farms, putting in first class tournament and practice fields. Other clubs sprouted around the county expanding the polo options. Meanwhile, programs for children’s polo introduced a crowd of young players to the sport, many of whom are now formidable competitors. The newest crop of young players, nurtured in Tiger Kneece’s junior program, are sure to add to Aiken’s reputation as a polo hotspot. And Aiken’s reputation is international. It is known as a place to play, as well as a place to breed and train polo ponies. Players come to Aiken for The legendary Tommy Hitchcock

Bostwick and Corey families. Society was changing, however, and as the years passed, polo in America was in decline. Many of the illustrious players from before the war retired or died, and fewer members of the next generations stayed with polo. Across the country, old clubs were falling to development. Aiken still had Whitney Field and the complex of fields on Powder House Road. A group of families upheld Aiken’s polo tradition, but it was only a shadow of what it had been in earlier years. Beginning in the mid-1970s, polo was coming back across America. Players from other parts of the country moved to Aiken, joining the descendants of players from the Golden Age and encouraging others to take up the sport. By 1982, the Centennial year of polo in Aiken, the club was on the upswing again. Tom Biddle, David Widener and Gene Kneece, wanting to play with their sons, helped develop a new program on Aiken’s historic fields. Tom and Gene’s sons, Tommy Biddle and Tiger Kneece, matured into top professionals, bringing their talents to clubs around the country. Things really heated up in the 1990s when Owen Rinehart and Adam Snow, two of America’s best players, bought property outside town and established the Langdon Road Club to hold medium and high goal matches. Soon, the horseman Dan McCarthy set up a green horse training operation nearby. Then Russ McCall and Matias Magrini established the New Bridge Polo

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the spring season on their way north from Florida, or for the fall season on their way south from points north and west. A growing number of players stay and play year round, and Aiken now has both summer and winter polo, as well as arenas that hold matches. Polo is an essential part of the city because, as the 20th century10-goaler Devereux Milburn remarked many years ago, “so many people who love horses naturally are attracted to Aiken.” This attraction is still as great as it was in Milburn’s day. With its distinguished history and its current popularity, Aiken Polo’s future is bright, and Whitney Field, the oldest polo field in continuous use in the United States, promises to hold its place as the focal point of Aiken’s Sunday afternoons for many years to come.


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Some Interesting Polo Facts prominence in the sport. In its 127-year history, • Polo is often considered the oldest team sport in the United States Polo Association has granted the the world. It originated in ancient Persia, and may prestigious 10-goal rating to only 21 Americanhave been played as early as 600 BC. Although it born players. Of these, seven have had homes likely started out as a village game, by about 200 in Aiken. Over the years, the USPA has had 20 BC it had become the favorite sport of Turkic and chairmen, and six of them have lived and played in Mongol royalty. Aiken. • Alexander the Great was an enthusiastic polo • Polo is the only contact sport in the world in player. According to legend, when he was first which women, men and even children regularly beginning his conquests in the fourth century BC, play with and against one another on an equal basis. Darius III, the emperor of Persia, sent him a gift The United States Polo Association has officially of a polo stick and a ball, implying that he should accepted women as players since 1972. Back in the be occupying himself with sports and games rather 1930s and early 1940s, many women played polo than with war. Alexander wrote back to thank across the U.S. and several him, saying “I am the stick and hundred belonged to the the world is my ball and I shall United States Women’s Polo conquer the world. Association, which had its • Most other items of sports own handicap scale. A few of equipment have been modernized these women also belonged in recent years: tennis rackets are to the USPA, registering no longer made of wood and cat with their initials rather than gut; you won’t find many bicycles with their feminine first racing in the Tour de France that names. (When the officials are still made of steel. But polo discovered that they were mallets have not changed very women, they generally lost much in the modern era at all. their memberships.) Today It’s true that there are carbon there are mixed games and also fiber mallets, and mallets with a growing number of womenremovable, replaceable heads, but only tournaments. The USPA they are not very common. Most now grants female players a players prefer natural, traditional separate women’s handicap mallets with wooden heads and to be used in women’s shafts made out of Malacca cane. A tournaments. polo mallet from 1917 and a polo Cover of Life Magazine 1921: Woman’s Place • Other than Aiken, the mallet from 2017 would be very biggest places for polo in the similar. United States are Florida (especially Palm Beach) • Aiken Polo Club holds a special place in the New York (especially Long Island) California history of polo in the United States. Although it is (especially Santa Barbara) and Texas (especially not the oldest polo club in the country, it does have Houston, which has the largest club in the U.S. the oldest continuously played-upon polo field. and the world.) Other than the U.S., the biggest Whitney Field, where the club holds Sunday games, countries for polo are Argentina, Britain and first saw polo action in March 1882, and has been Australia. But, even though the number of players played on every year since that time. worldwide is rather small, you can still find polo • Although today most of the major polo in many different places. There are polo clubs in tournaments sanctioned by the United States Polo 47 states in the U.S. and in about 80 countries Association are played at clubs closer to larger worldwide. metropolitan areas, Aiken still has an outsized 84

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Polo Glossary

Bump: A player may ride his horse into his opponent’s in order to spoil his shot or remove him from the play. The angle of the bump must be no greater than 45 degrees. A bump is dangerous riding and a foul if either horse is significantly ahead of the other, going much faster than the other, or if the bump causes either mount to lose its balance. Chukker:

A period in polo is called a chukker, or sometimes a chukka. Each chukker lasts seven to seven and a half minutes and there are usually either four or six chukkers in each game. After each chukker, the players leave the field and then return with fresh horses for the next chukker. A horse may play one or at most two chukkers in a game.

Divot: A loose piece of turf created by galloping hooves, or by horses stopping and turning quickly. At halftime, spectators are invited on the field to replace the divots, otherwise known as stomping the divots. Flagger: An official who is stationed behind each goal to determine whether or not a goal has been scored. If yes, the flagger waves his flag over his head. If no, he waves it down by his feet. Goal:

The purpose of polo is to score goals by hitting the ball through the goal posts. After each goal is scored, the teams switch directions and return to the center of the field for a throw-in. “Goal” is also a term for a handicap, as in “How many goals are you?” (See “Handicap”.)

Groom: The person who cares for, tacks, untacks and washes the horses during the game. Many players have fulltime grooms whose jobs may also include caring for, training and exercising the player’s horses six or seven days a week, as well as driving the truck and trailer, cleaning the tack and even polishing the player’s boots and knee pads. Half Goal: In some tournaments, the outcome of the

game might be decided by half goals, which are generally not reflected on the scoreboard. There are three half goal ratings for players: B.5 (minus one half ), A.5 (plus one half ) and a 1.5 (one and a half ). If one team is rated half a goal less than the other team and the game ends in a tie, the lower rated team will be the winner by a half goal. The half goal ratings only count in 6 goal polo and below.

Handicap: Every player is assigned a handicap from C

(-2) to 10 goals. This handicap reflects the player’s theoretical worth to his team and has nothing whatever to do with how many goals he might score during a match. On each team, the four players’ handicaps are added together to arrive at a team handicap. Team handicaps are used to classify tournaments: in an 8-goal tournament, the teams have a maximum of eight goals, for instance. If a 7-goal team plays against an 8-goal team, the 7-goal team will start the game with one goal, on handicap.

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Whitney Vogt checks and turns

Hook: A player may hook or strike at his opponent’s mallet when the opponent is in the act of hitting at the ball. He may not reach over, under or across his opponent’s horse: this is a cross hook and a foul. A high hook (above the level of the player’s shoulder) is also a foul. Knock-in: When the ball goes over the endline but not through the goal posts, the team defending that goal gets a free hit or knock-in from the point where the ball went out. Attacking players must stay 30 yards away from the hitter until the ball is in play. Line of the Ball: The imaginary line that the ball creates

from where a player hits it to where it is going. The line extends indefinitely across the field. Many of the right-of-way rules in polo are based on the concept of the line of the ball. Generally, one tries not to cross the line of the ball, especially in front of someone who is on the line.

Mallet: The polo stick. Since polo is not croquet

(fortunately!) players do not have to hit the ball with the pointed end of the mallet. Instead, they hit it with the side of the head, at the juncture of the head and the cane.

Near Side: The left side of the horse. One normally handles the horse on his near side. A near side shot is one taken on the left side of the horse. All players carry their mallets in their right hands, so to execute a near side shot, they must lean across the horse. Off Side: The right side of the horse. The most common shot in polo is an off side forehand, a forward shot. Penalty One: a dangerous foul that takes place near the goal, created when a defending player attempts to stop an


attacker from scoring. In a Penalty One, the team fouled gets an automatic goal. The teams do not change ends, and the ball is thrown in at the 10 yard line.

Pony:

Although they are full-sized, full-grown horses, polo mounts are called ponies. This term comes from the early modern history of polo when players really did ride ponies. Today, most are Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses.

Pony Goal: a goal that is scored by a pony kicking it in. Pony goals count just the same as goals scored by players.

Ride-off: In a ride-off, a player encourages his horse to lean into his opponent’s horse in order to keep his opponent from hitting the ball. The rider may also make contact with his opponent, but only with his shoulder. Elbowing is a foul. Safety: If a defending player hits the ball over his own endline, the umpires blow the whistle for a safety. The attacking team takes a foul shot 60 yards out, parallel to the point at which the ball went out of bounds. Sideboards: Low boards that help keep the ball from going out of bounds. If the ball goes over the sideboards, the players line up facing the boards and the umpire bowls the ball between

them, just as he does after a goal. Although play stops if the ball goes over the boards, horses jump them regularly and keep on playing. Time does not stop when a ball goes out of bounds. However, if the ball goes out of bounds or hits the boards after the 30-second warning horn has sounded, this will end the chukker.

Sudden Death: If the score is tied at the end of regulation play, the game goes to sudden death overtime. The overtime chukker is timed just like a regular chukker, and ends either if a team scores, or at the seven-and-a-half minute mark. Tack-time: A time out that is called because one of the

players has a piece of broken equipment. Unless the player with the broken equipment is in imminent danger, tack-time is only called after the play has stopped for some other reason, such as a foul or a goal. The player is allowed to leave the field to repair or replace the broken item.

Tail shot: A back shot executed at an angle behind the horse. The opposite of a tail shot is a cut, or an open shot Technical: A penalty exacted against displays of poor sportsmanship.

Third Man: The third man sits on the sidelines

and watches the play carefully. It is his duty to settle disputes between umpires by giving his opinion as to whether or not a foul was committed.

Throw-In: The way a ball is put into play in

a neutral situation, such as at the beginning of the game, after a goal, or if the ball goes out of bounds. The umpire lines the two teams up facing him, and then bowls the ball between them. Each team fights for possession.

Stick and Ball: practicing polo by cantering around, hitting the ball. Shoot-Out: If the game is tied at the end of the game and the players do not want to play a sudden death overtime chukker, or have already played one, the winner can be determined by a shoot-out. In this case, each player on each team takes a turn hitting a 40-yard foul shot. When all four players on each team have hit, the team that has scored the most goals is declared the winner by one goal. If the teams are tied, then the players hit again in turn until one team comes out ahead. USPA:. The United States Polo Association is the governing body of equestrian sport. Established in 1890, the USPA is the second oldest sports governing body in the U.S. (The United States Tennis Association, founded in 1881, is the oldest.) The USPA formulates and updates the rules, establishes the handicaps and works to promote and improve the sport. It is possible to join the association as a full member, a junior member or a student member. If you are a polo fan, you can even join as an associate member. (www.uspolo.org)


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Historic Aiken Polo Alan Corey, Jr.; , 1917-1998 by Pam Gleason

Alan Corey Jr., the father of Alan Corey III for whom the Aiken polo pavilion is named, was one of the top polo players in the world. His teams won the United States Polo Association Open Championship and Monty Waterbury Cups five times, and the National 20 goal four times. Rated a 7 before World War II (where he served in the Navy) he reached 9-goals in 1953, and carried a rating of 7 or more for almost 30 years. Alan’s polo career began when he was 10 years old and his parents sent him to Aiken Prep School. There he learned to play under Captain Gaylord, the famous umpire and coach who was the riding master at the school. Alan played both horse and bicycle polo and was the captain of the bicycle polo team in 1931. For many years, Mrs. Thomas Hitchcock (“Lulie”) organized a junior polo team called the Meadowlarks, and Alan was a regular member. The Meadowlarks practiced on Long Island in New York during the summers and in Aiken during the winters where they used the Meadowlark Field, which later became Winthrop Field. Then Alan took his talents to Yale University, where he played on the victorious Yale intercollegiate polo team. 94

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Alan Corey, Jr. riding Baby. After graduation in 1940, Alan married Patricia Grace, whose family owned a winter home in Aiken. Each spring, the couple returned to Aiken where Pat rode to hounds and Alan became a mainstay of Aiken Polo Club. The big game of the spring was always a match between an Aiken team headlined by Alan Corey and Pete Bostwick, and a team called Aurora or Buffalo which had Seymour Knox and his two sons, Seymour III and Norty, aided by the 9-goaler Lewis Smith. The Coreys had one daughter, Patricia, and two sons, Russell and Alan III, both of whom followed their father’s footsteps into polo. Alan Corey Jr. had talent, fortitude and a polo education second to none. This education started with his introduction to the sport at Aiken Prep and was furthered by his exposure to the great 10-goal players of his day. He learned the most from the legendary Tommy Hitchcock, who taught him strategy and helped him develop quickness, teamwork and an ability to communicate with his teammates. He was also fortunate in his life partner, his wife Pat. Pat had played a little polo herself in Aiken when she was a girl, and she was a keen horsewoman with an exceptional eye for a horse. She helped Alan develop his polo string and was one of the reasons that he was, for a time, considered the best-mounted player in America. Alan Corey Jr. was inducted into the Museum of Polo Hall of Fame in 1992.


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Aiken Polo 2017 Fall  

Aiken Polo Club's Fall 2017 program and magazine.

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