Polo Players Edition

Intercollegeiate Interscholastic 2019

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

Issue link: https://polo.epubxp.com/i/1072212

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Page 24 of 75

23 I/I MAGAZINE - 2019 I was lucky enough to grow up on a small horse farm and worked every day caring for a small menagerie of animals. Chores for chickens, goats, horses, dogs and cats were ever present. All of my hard work was rewarded by having an assortment of activities available that were perfect for a horse crazed girl. I grew up riding a series of naughty ponies, trail riding and fox hunting with both Old North bridge Hounds in Massachusetts, and then Farmington Hunt club in Virginia. As I got older, my interests expanded to pony club and three-day eventing. It was during this time, on the Rapidan River pony club games teams that I realized my love for riding at speed. Pony club games rallies were the perfect combination of ponies, horsemanship, speed, agility, coordination, teamwork, and friendship. Years later, surprisingly and happily, I found these same skills and attributes in playing polo and I felt like I just belonged. When I stopped attending pony club, I continued to hunt, compete my mare in the jumpers and at the local horse trials. Sadly, fate reared her ugly head and my mare sustained a career-ending injury. In the blink of an eye, I had a retired horse and had an exceedingly large amount of time on my hands. My mom offered to arrange for me to take a polo lesson at the UVA polo center. I need to thank my long time teammate Sadie Bryant, as it was she and her parents who kept telling my mother about the high school polo program. We regularly crossed paths foxhunting and they were sure we would be good teammates. I was hesitant to try the sport, but eventually agreed to try. A few days later, I was dropped off at the polo grounds and thrown onto a plain chestnut pony with a heart of gold, named Sarah. LJ Lopez, the high school polo coach at the time, brought me to the center of the arena PTF DANIEL J. WALLACE JR. FEMALE INTERCOLLEGIATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jessica Schmitt University of Virginia "Polo's high intensity served me with the adrenaline rush I had always craved, but it was the team aspect that changed my life over the years." and began to teach me about swinging the mallet. I found that first lesson incredibly frustrating that it was so hard to hit the ball but the challenge was on! Years of games rallies had made me a bit competitive and this skill was not going to defeat me. Like many polo addicts, I was hooked after one lesson. I became a working student for UVA polo that summer and after many hours of practice I began to consistently hit the balls at a walk, trot, canter and gallop. My love for polo only grew as I learned new skills, plays, and defensive tactics. Polo's high intensity served me with the adrenaline rush I had always craved, but it was the team aspect that changed my life over the years. Unlike many equestrian sports, polo is built upon a strong sense of camaraderie. The dynamic team bond filled a void I didn't realize existed and through the years, I formed countless lifelong friendships. As one entity, we advanced through some of the most daunting challenges we had ever faced. We mourned losses, celebrated wins, and without my team, I would not have achieved such success. The UVA polo program is virtually unrivaled in the collegiate world. It owns around 65 polo ponies donated by many polo professionals and UVA Alumni. It also boasts an indoor arena, outdoor arena, and grass playing field that provides aspiring players a versatile location for learning the ins and outs of polo. With a full time manager and coach on the grounds at all times, students are able to fit polo in to their rigorous collegiate curriculum. Varsity practices are held twice a week through the late afternoon, when there are virtually no schedule conflicts. Under the management of Lou Lopez, the UVA program has repeatedly and consistently brought in national

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