“Polo is really fun.”
That’s the message shared by anyone you talk to around the Vancouver Polo Club (VPC) grounds in Delta.
From humble beginnings in 2014, it didn’t take the club long to steady its footing and it’s now ready to welcome fresh faces, said membership chair Grant Lockhart.
So what is polo?
Take a pinch of golf, mix it with an ounce of cricket, stir in a healthy dose of rugby, then do all of them on horseback and you might get a little closer to understanding the sport of polo.
“I’ve personally never found anything quite like it,” Lockart said. “We want to make this accessible for anyone who wants to come out and try it.
“We’re in a place today that we haven’t been the last few years, we are ready for new members.”
The club has over 50 horses and more than a dozen of them are designated for new players and beginners in its “pony pool.”
“We are continuing to build so we can expand the sport and share our love for polo,” Lockhart said.
Club organizers Lockhart and Jay Garnett, board member in charge of marketing for the VPC, put bluntly just how humble the beginnings really were: “[It] started with an old rundown stable, knee deep in chicken [waste].”
“Polo was huge in the ’50s and ’60s in Vancouver but then with development being what it was and is, it moved out to Delta, not far from our current location here,” Garnett said.
The old field became overgrown, interest faded, but Garnett and his group decided they needed something fun to do.
“We weren’t going to do show jumping or anything like that, but we still wanted something to enjoy with our kids and the whole family,” he said.
|Vancouver Polo Club membership chair Grant Lockhart with his horse Mafia at the Vancouver Polo Club’s open house in Delta on July 7, 2019. (Ryan-Alexander McLeod photo)|
Checking over his horse named Mafia’s legs, Lockhart said showing up to the Vancouver Polo Club on a Sunday is more than just getting out and playing.
“It’s one of those sports where you come out early, you take your time and talk to your horse, groom them, check them over, make sure your tack (equipment) is ready,” he said. “You come here for the game and you stay sometimes until the wee hours having fun, enjoying a fire with friends.”
And that’s what the VPC is trying to cultivate. Lockhart said the feeling of being at the club is a cathartic release from the city grind unlike any other.
Not only that, but the club has three professional Argentinian polo players on staff to train players of all ages. The team is lead by polo pro, VPC manager and resident man-who-can’t-stop-smiling-while-talking-about-polo Nicolas Maciel.
Maciel has played since the age of 15 years old in his home of Argentina, where his father was a competitive player. Professional polo took Maciel all over the world and he’s now enjoying his home in Canada.
“I loved the horses, my father was a player and it was just the right thing to do to play polo,” he said.
“The adrenaline polo gives you is incredible. It’s a team sport with really friendly people and I just love to play.”
That love of the sport Maciel feels is evident in his teaching style and during the club’s open house on Sunday, July 7, his positive energy with each of the newcomers he trained was evident. Patience and his wide smile set learners at ease and proved just how far a little bit of practice can go for any skill level.
“If you are a decent rider, love horses and are willing to learn, we can teach you,” Maciel said. “Just have a little bit of patience and you can make it; kids, men, women, everyone can have fun playing polo. I want to make sure everyone is safe and having fun, once you have that, the skill will come.”
The Vancouver Polo Club offers five-lesson starter packages for $600, which includes equipment, a horse to ride and instruction from trained professionals.
Want to check out polo for yourself? Club players will be competing at this Saturday’s (July 13) Pacific Polo Cup, hosted at the Southland Riding Club in Vancouver (7025 Macdonald St.), from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more info on the club, visit vancouverpolo.com.