According to Lonnie Cross, Adirondack Polo Club member, the club is in its fifth season though for the last two years has made Westport its summer home. Previously the club traveled to destinations as far away as New Orleans to participate in matches. When Cross purchased land from a golf facility he did so with the purpose of providing a different local attraction for the community.
“We are polo enthusiasts that are used to traveling. This year we have played matches on the other side of the lake with the Sugerbush Polo Club as well as in Saratoga. Our players come from different backgrounds,” says Cross. “We have careers beyond polo so this is mostly a hobby. We are a grassroots club but it is our decision to bring something different to the community. Our goal is to continue making a difference. I hope we can through our love of our horses.”
It may be a hobby but it is something the club is very willing to share. Though most of us may not have the means to own a thoroughbred polo pony, the Adirondack Polo Club’s events are usually free and open to the public. Those of us that enjoy a fast-paced match can enjoy the benefits of beautiful surroundings and gorgeous horses without the work involved in ownership. The added benefit is that the polo participants welcome questions about their chosen sport and want people to be able to not just watch but be actively involved.
The “polo ponies” aren’t really ponies but beautiful horses carefully selected for speed and stamina. In addition the horses have to be able to maneuver between other horses and riders and not be jittery when the mallet swings around their heads.
Cross would like to eliminate the misconception that polo is only about the high-heeled women replacing divots while holding glasses of champagne or that the animals are mistreated in any fashion.
“We treat our horses with kid gloves because they are the athletes. They are as, if not more, important than the players. We feed and bed our animals, provide grooms to exercise and make sure they get the rest they need. It is at great expense that we provide the best care. I think it’s terrible when other owners mistreat their animals, taking them on rides and then expecting the animal to perform at a match. Traditionally Monday is the day of rest for the horses.”
He does admit that these animals are bred to be fast and require vigorous exercise though he agrees that everything requires balance and the horse’s best interest is always at heart.
For those that may not know the rules here is bit of information. An outdoor polo field is larger than nine football fields (300 yards long and 160 yards wide). It is touted as the largest field in organized sports. A team is made of four players that are assigned positions based on each player’s strength and experience.
A polo match lasts about an hour and a half with six chukkers (periods) of seven minutes each. A bell is rung to announce that last 30 seconds remaining in the chukker while a horn sound indicates the chukker’s ending. There is a three-minute break between each chukker and a five-minute halftime. Halftime is used to replace any divots out in the field. Replacing the divots is just one time-honored tradition of polo.
Though most matches are free this August 21st at 1:00 p.m. The Adirondack Polo Club will play for High Peaks Hospice for an admission of $5 per person and $10 per car. That price certainly encourages you to want to lower your carbon footprint and car pool.
Newcomers and fans are encouraged to come early and bring their own seating (chairs or blankets) and relish a picnic-like setting. Hamburgers, hotdogs and other fare will be available for purchase starting at noon. There will also be miniature donkeys and alpacas for all to enjoy.
If you can’t make this weekend’s event, on September 4th another fundraising polo match will take place that benefits Ronald McDonald House in Burlington, VT.
The Polo Hotline is (518) 572-9391 with a rain date of Sunday, August 22. The polo field is located on Polo Club Way off of Stevenson Road (Route 44) in Westport.
Photo of the Adirondack Polo Club used with permission.
content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George.