Tag Archives: Arena Polo

Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament at the San Diego Polo Club

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament

On July 5 & 6, the San Diego Polo Club played host to one of many tournaments organized by the Pacific Coast Arena League.  USPA members from all over California traveled to SDPC to compete in the two-day event hosted by both San Diego Polo and Poway Polo clubs.  Roughly 40 players and 80 horses gathered at our arena to compete against one another over July 4th weekend.   The club was bustling more than usual and playing host to our guests brought a wonderful, different, refreshing air to the club.  Many of the competitors over the weekend got their start at our Arena School lessons and now compete regularly all over California at various other clubs. Each day had 6 matches consisting of 4 chukkers of various levels of competition. From our Interscholastic teenaged players to our best A-rated players, the day was action packed with some of the most amazing arena polo you’ll ever see.  Some of the other clubs represented were OC Polo, Central Coast Polo, Lakeside Polo and Poway Polo.

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Maryam Jahani

Each day consisted of 6 matches, A-Flights, B-Flights and C-Flight Student chukkers. A-Flight is the more advanced and C-Flight is more beginner level, even though there’s still a lot going on in C-Flight, just watch!  For each match, 3 Awards were given:  Most Valuable Player, Sportsmanship and Best Playing Pony.  MVP is usually given to the player who contributed the most to the game, not necessarily who scored the most goals, an all around player acknowledged for their effort and skill, as well as their knowledge and respect for the game and rules.  Sportsmanship is given to a stand-out player who perhaps showed a mutual respect for another player, horse, or rule and did not put personal triumph above how the game should be played.  Perhaps an overall attitude toward the chukkers and other players. One young man was awarded Sportsmanship for initiating the “great game” handshake exchange to the other team’s players and to thank the umpires at the end of his match.   Best Playing Pony is given to the stand-out horse that performed brilliantly in terms of perhaps speed, ride-off, responsiveness to needs of the rider, and overall performance within the game.

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Heather_perkins

Arena polo is often mistaken as less exciting and more condensed than grass polo.  If you take just one quick moment to watch some chukkers of some A rated players, you’ll very quickly realize how scrappy, exciting, action packed and different Arena polo is from grass polo.  It’s amazing just how different the entire game can be within the 100×50 yard field.  You can often use the wall or boards of the arena as a “4th man” in your chukkers, using it for your team, or against the other team.  You can smack the ball against the boards at an angle to change the line of the ball to pass to a teammate, something you can’t really do in grass unless you hit it low enough to bounce it off the red boards on the ground.  The close contact in the arena is extremely exciting, sometimes looking more like a demolition derby instead of Formula One racing.  Most of the same rules still apply in either game – grass or arena – but the strategy tends to be much different.

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-sdpc

While hitting and carrying the ball tends to be much easier on the grass, since most people prefer to play golf on the green instead of the sand pits, imagine just how much more skill you might need to “play golf in the sand pits” all the time?  The arena ball tends to glance off mounds of sand or mud, or get stuck in hoof holes created by the galloping horses.  But to develop enough skill to work around that and STILL be a dynamite polo player, I’d say that’s a mission worth trying, and a feat often underestimated and overlooked. With the deck stacked against you in getting the ball to move anywhere in a straight line, you might argue that arena polo is harder.

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Julie Empey

New players may rush themselves through Arena as their end game or end goal might be to play on the grass.  Take one look at an arena tournament and you are in for one hell of a ride. You can see Everything right up close, you can hear the grunts of the horses, hear the clanking of stirrups during a ride off, see all the action up close from wherever you’re standing – it’s easier to see every detail.   Get ready to duck out of the way of a ball flying out of bounds!

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Niki Mobtaker
The next time you hear about an arena tournament at SDPC, come on down and check it out.  It’s really an amazing display of expertise horsemanship, and expert ball-mallet handling, turning in tight circles, dribbling the ball to keep it away from a fast approaching opponent.  It has non-stop ride-offs, precision maneuvers within the small space… it is a RUSH!

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Alvern Vorn Steeg

A very big thank you to SDPC Polo Manager Graham Bray for letting us host the two day tournament, it went off without a hitch, so thank you very much for everything!  A very special thank you to Dr. Colleen Wilson of Adeptus Nutrition for donating her equine supplements for the Best Playing Pony awards given to the best horse in each match voted on by the umpires and officials of each game.  Thank you so much to Kimo Huddleston who worked tirelessly all weekend umpiring most of the games, fitting in teaching some lessons, and dragging the arena in between chukkers.   A monstrous thank you to the Godfather of Southern California Polo – Mr. Russ Sheldon.  Most of the organizational details are old hat to him, this ain’t his first rodeo, a valuable resource in the polo community, a hard working man dedicated to keeping polo alive and attainable for everyone in the San Diego area.  Thank you to Megan Judge, Heather Perkins, Russ Sheldon, Graham Bray, Heather Chronert, Kimo Huddleston and Gillian Young, for your help in organizing and making it all happen.

San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Kelly Newton

And the best thank you of all – to all the competitors for coming down and enjoying the tournament with us!  We love hosting visitors and opening our doors to different players of all levels. We hope you enjoyed your time at SDPC, its picturesque setting, and hopefully you made it down to watch our Sunday Matches!   I know we’ll see some of you back over Labor Day weekend when we host the National Youth Tournament Series final matches.  That’ll draw visitors from all over the country to watch the kids (all under 19) play on the grass.
San Diego Polo Club Pacific Coast Arena League Tournament-Central Coast Polo
Thank you again for coming down to celebrate with us.

-Gillian Young

All photos by Jeffery Trout.

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San Diego Polo Club Visits Desert Polo Clubs

San Diego Polo Club Players and Members headed out to Indio, California for a weekend of polo, socializing and fun!

Some of us kicked off the weekend stick and balling on Friday evening at Eldorado Polo Club with Kyle Fargey.  The rest of us headed out on Saturday morning to participate in a group lesson with Erik Wright of Wrightway Polo.

Ken Vallens

Jessica Summer & Joan Burton

After a couple chukkers at Empire Polo Club, we headed over to the Cantina at Eldorado Polo Club for lunch.  We enjoyed a professional polo match from the patio of the Cantina… wow, what a view!

To end the day, we celebrated at Empire Polo Club‘s Blue and White Argentine themed party.  Guests were encouraged to dress in the country’s colors.  Fire pits kept us warm as we watch the Argies cook up the traditional asado meal.  We ran into San Diego players Miguel Guiterrez, Mariano Gutierrez, Rick and Robin Paicius, Graham Bray, Jesse Bray, Nourdean Anakar, Colleen Wilson, Ellen Greenhill, Kimo Huddleston and his family, Billy Ramos, the Brumby Family, and Erik Wright and his family.  San Diego members danced the night away!

Colleen Wilson, Madeline Gere, Nourdean Anakar, Heather Chronert, Lindsey Chronert

Mercedes Mafara & Holly McGlinn

Lindsey Chronert & Mercedes Mafara

Sonya Berg

Madeline Gere & Darlene Leivonen

Jessica Summer, Amy Irving, Brenda Phillips, Holly McGlinn, Linda Drabova, Angessa Hughmanick

Linda Drabova, Jessica Summer & Angessa Hughmanick

Amy Irving, Holly McGlinn, Mercedes Mafara

Debbie Bray, Graham Bray, Colleen Wilson

Sunday morning we met at Eldorado Polo Club and had a fantastic lesson with Kyle Fargey.  We were split into teams and played a few coached chukkers.

Linda Drabova, Amir Mojaver, Amy Irving


Holly McGlinn

Calvin Dalton, Holly McGlinn, Linda Drabova, Paul Morriseau, Amy Irving, Mercedes Mafara, Amir Mojaver

We finished off the day with lunch and Sunday Polo!

Angessa Hughmanick & Calvin Dalton

Jesse Bray, Alvaro Tadeo, Mariano Fassetta, Ron Bonaguidi (Hanalei Bay from San Diego!)

Photos Courtesy of Jim Bremner, Amy Irving & Lacey Winterton.

Meet Kimo Huddleston

We swung by Kimo’s barn and found him with his two daughters, Hi’ilawe and Ilihia, jamming to some Hawaiian tunes and cleaning his horse stalls.
Kimo, tell us how you got here.
Well, it starts with Steph (my wife).  We met in Oahu at a polo match.  She came to watch and we just started talking.  One day we went riding and when she fell off and got back on, I knew she was the one.  We got married, moved to the big island and had 2 girls, Hi’ilawe and Iliha.  Steph became a nurse and wanted to move to San Diego to take care of her family.  Playing polo in San Diego seemed like a great opportunity so she didn’t have to ask twice.

Kimo holding his youngest daughter Uakea and chatting with his eldest, Hi’ilawe.
How long have you played here and where else have you played?
I’ve been here for four years.  My family is here, so we don’t move around (like most players).  I’ve played in San Diego, Indio and Oregon.
How long have you been teaching at our Polo School?
This is my third season.
How did you get involved in the Polo School?
I started teaching private lessons in my spare time and it just developed from there.  I started teaching intermediate lessons and just this past year, beginner lessons.  I actually like the beginner lessons better because the players don’t know much and are better students.  I go crazy when someone has taken 3 lessons and they think they know everything.  I want to knock them around.  I’ve been playing for 30 years and they think they know more than me.  I love teaching and helping people who want to learn.
So, what do you do to relax?
I can’t.  Well, maybe with a golf club.
What do you mean, golf?
Yea.  I was going to come to San Diego to either play polo or golf.  I won a $700 bet a few years ago on the Encinitas golf course.  I guess the full sleeve of tattoos threw the guy off.
That’s pretty funny.  Switching gears here, how do you find help?
Well, Hi’ilawe (his eldest daughter) helps me groom.  She needed money and something to do over the summer.  I figure I have to pay someone, it might as well be my kid.
What about finding a horse?  What is the process involved?
Once you put out the word at the barn, they (horse breeders and trainers) come out of the woodwork.  Everyone is different with how they choose horses.  I look for one a good size and good tempermant.  I don’t care if it’s ugly, it has to be good.  And it’ll look good playing.  Then you stick and ball with it a bit, try it out in practice chukkers, see how it handles and then make a deal.
Does that usually take a few weeks?
Yea.  If it takes longer than that, you’re not going to buy it.
That makes sense.  Do all of your horses have Hawaiian names?
Yep.  Hula Girl, Shakalaka, Onolicious, Big Mama… I actually have a funny story about Big Mama.  I was playing her in a game and this larger woman was on the opposing team.  The woman came ripping right past me and Big Mama wanted to go fast too, but I said, “easy Big Mama, easy.”  The heavier woman came up to me after the game and told me it wasn’t very nice that I commented on her weight.  Everyone laughed and I explained the horse’s name was Big Momma.
Oh no.  Big Momma sounds like a trouble-maker.  Tell us Kimo, what does the future hold for you?
I was meant to play sports, so I’ll keep playing polo for as long as I can.  Then retire and play golf!