There has been a renewed interest in the W&L Polo Association (Polo Club) this year and the organization received U.S. Polo Association (USPA) recognition for the first time since 2008.
W&L played its first matches at the end of March in the Virginia Polo Center against two teams from the University of Virginia. Although W&L lost these games–the first the team had ever played–plans are underway for rematches with U.Va. and Virginia Tech in the fall.
"The earliest I have heard of a Polo Club existing at W&L is during the 1970s. Then I heard from a W&L alum who played during the 1980s," said JP Beall '14. "At that time, a friend of his had brought polo ponies from his home to Lexington to play polo." But Beall had no idea where they practiced or kept the horses. If anyone has any information about the history of the Polo Club, get in touch with W&L students JP Beall, Mary Bacon '14 or Parrish Preston '17.
"We don't know how long that the 70s and 80s club lasted but there seemed to be a revival in 2001," Beall noted. "In the constitution for the club that we found dated 2001, there was a focus on competitive polo playing and a tradition of competing with the University of Virginia." He believes a relationship had been built with the USPA and since the closest polo school was in Charlottesville (Virginia Polo), many of its competitions would have been held there, as they are now.
Other polo clubs in the Virginia and Washington areas have only just started in the last few years (Virginia Tech, George Washington University and Georgetown), so the matches would probably have been against different teams within the University of Virginia Polo Club.
There are 10 members in the W&L Polo Club. It is coed, and members come from all experience levels. Its home is the Stone Bridge Equestrian Center (SBEC) in Natural Bridge, Va., but the competitions will be held away from SBEC or W&L until the club is able to collect enough equipment and polo ponies, as well as a set up a field for regulation play.
"We figured the club had to focus on both competition and awareness of the sport to be sustainable, so we began to focus on training," Beall said. "Besides equestrian coaching that we now receive at SBEC and Virginia Polo clinics, the club is entirely student trained. This way, we hope to make polo accessible to W&L students at varying levels of experience and not necessarily needing a horse. That can be costly, but we are fortunate to be in horse country and have a great relationship with our barn."
The club is looking to expand its membership and be able to have more specific polo training at SBEC. It has been looking at ways to bring on donated polo ponies to increase its capacity and ability to train. "We are discussing with our advisor, Ray Ellington (W&L's assistant director of Campus Recreation), the possibility of looking for a polo coach and some on-campus off-horse practice space for training," said Beall.
"We hope to continue to strengthen the club's base to ensure that it lasts for the long run, taking W&L's name to the top in Virginian competitive polo," he added.