Friday, March 18, 2011

Tally Ho Polo

Back in November, Linda Knox McLean, Master of The Aiken Hounds, invited area polo players to come out and enjoy a day of foxhunting. A large number took her up on the offer, swelling the Saturday morning hunt field to at least 70. Several polo players even decided to add hunting to their repertoires, keeping a horse or two in work over the winter and buying a whole new wardrobe of hunt clothes.

This March, as the foxhunting season wound down, Barbara Parker and Clint Nangle of Overbrook Farms, a polo development in Wagener, decided to reciprocate. They invited members of Aiken's hunts to come out for a polo lesson followed by a round-robin tournament. Members of three hunts took up the challenge. On March 13, teams from Why Worry Hounds, The Aiken Hounds and Whiskey Road Foxhounds gathered at Overbrook Farms, where they started out with drills, and then got a taste of real polo competition.

If the foxhunters proved one thing, it is that polo really brings out the competitive spirit in everyone. Each team was composed of first time polo players, along with one or two riders who were well versed in the both sports. The game was supposed to be played "at a level appropriate for first time players riding foxhunters." During the drills, the first time polo players trotted around conservatively, trying to get the hang of hitting the ball. It looked like it would be a friendly, slow little game.

But all that changed when the round robin started. The foxhunters wanted to win, and their horses were surprisingly game. There was no more trotting. Riders and horses galloped across the field, determined to score goals and earn glory.

The round robin ended in a tie. This meant the tournament would be decided by a shoot out. Why Worry Hounds won, on the strength of good goal by Jeff Shuler. Katherine Gunter's hunt horse Augustus was named the best playing foxhunter.

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