Remembering Will Tankard The Polo Community Mourns by Pam Gleason
The polo community in Aiken and beyond is mourning the loss of William Tyler Tankard. Will, 31, died along with his dog Chewy and three of his horses in a motor vehicle accident on July 30. He was en route from Lexington, Kentucky to the Darlington Polo Club on the PennsylvaniaOhio border, where he was scheduled to play in a Friday night exhibition match. Will has been described as the heart and soul of the polo community, a promising young player who was hard-working, sincere and a team player in every sense of the word. He grew up in the polo world, playing his first chukkers by the age of 5. He went on to play in the interscholastics in Fort Worth, Texas, where he led his team to the national championship in 2002 and 2003. From there, he earned a partial polo scholarship to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In 2006, Texas Tech won their first ever intercollegiate championship. After graduation, Will was working in an insurance office and trying to figure out a way to continue playing polo. It was then that he heard of Team USPA, the United States Polo Association’s new training program for aspiring professionals. He applied, was accepted into the program during its first year, and went to work with Adam Snow, a former 10-goal player in Aiken. Dedicating himself to the sport, he progressed rapidly. Will was soon in demand on many teams, and those teams found success with him. Among other accomplishments, his teams won the USPA National Copper Cup 12goal in Aiken in 2012 and 2013, as well as the National Chairman’s Cup 12-goal at Myopia in 2013. He also played internationally, in Argentina and Chile, and represented his country on the winning team of the Bryan Morrison Cup against England. This past spring, he made it to the finals of three of Aiken’s tournaments. Although Will’s tenacious playing and accurate hitting were responsible for many wins, he was never a flashy player. Instead, he played for his team, always taking the role that would help that team succeed, and making his teammates play better because of it. In the days following the accident, a Facebook page was set up, called In Memory of Will Tankard, and it was soon filled with pictures, tributes and stories, as well as an immense outpouring of support from around the country and world. People came forward with their memories of Will, many of which involved accounts of his lending a hand to someone when they needed help. It became clear that, as beloved a figure as he was in the polo world, his generosity with his time and his talent went further than most people realized.
Aiken Polo Club 2015
Kris Bowman, who is the director of Team USPA, says that Will embodied all of the qualities that Team USPA was looking for. “He did everything exactly how we imagined,” she says. “So many people had a hand in getting Will to the point where he had that success in his career and so many people believed in him. And he totally understood the concept of giving back. If there was ever anyone in the program who had a problem or was struggling a bit, I knew I could always send them to Will and he would help them every day. He was so patient with them and so helpful.” Seven of Will’s horses miraculously survived the accident. They were transported to Mike and Andrea Groubert’s farm in Canfield, Ohio, where they were treated by a series of vets and were cared for around the clock by Will’s mother, Cissie Snow and his partner, Samira Waernlund, who was driving in her car behind Will when the accident occurred. Cissie, Samira and the Grouberts were joined by an army of volunteers from the local community as well as polo friends from near and far. Businesses donated feed and supplies and various fundraisers were set up to help defray veterinary and horse care costs. In August, the horses were transported home to Aiken where they continued to recover at Barb Uskup’s farm, Meadow Hill. “It has been incredible,” said Cissie Snow shortly after the accident. “People I don’t even know come to clean the barn. Families keep coming by with their children, bringing us food or wanting to give us some bandages that they had for their horse that they don’t need any more. One man we met reached in his pocket and took out ten dollars and gave it to us and said ‘This is all I can do. Please take this for the horses.’ That’s the kind of people they are. Every time I look around there are more angels. It is testimony to Will’s life. He would do that for somebody. It gives you faith in a lot of different ways. “They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Cissie continued. “Raising a child as a single parent in the polo community has been one of the most incredible experiences. I think Will took the best of everybody that ever helped him. I think he made me a better person and I think he made a lot of the other people who knew him better people, and it’s because he was raised by this village, this polo community.” An addition to Cissie and Samira, Will also leaves his father, Bill Tankard and a brother, Jason Melson. A celebration of his life is scheduled for October 3 at Whitney Polo Field, the day before the finals of the USPA National Copper Cup 12 goal, which will be played in his memory. To make a tax-deductible donation to help Will’s horses, send checks to AIPF, 12300 South Shore Boulevard, STE 218, Wellington, FL 33414 or donate directly at In Memory of Will Tankard on GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/c44cvmh34.
Published on Aug 15, 2015