Gallant ponies, manicured green pastures and white tents set against the panoramic backdrop of Mount Rainier were the scene at the majestic Seattle Polo and Equestrian Club, the newest polo club in the Northwest, for its inaugural Seattle Cup Tournament, one of two tournaments to be held each summer.
SPEC was founded by Cameron Smith and his parents Ben and Ruth Ann Smith in 2012. They wanted to promote and grow the sport in the Pacific Northwest while supporting equestrian activities in the local Enumclaw community. SPEC’s offers individual polo lessons and clinics on its 68-acre grounds, which include a regulation size polo field and two riding arenas.
The Smiths have devoted several years to making their dream of bringing polo to Seattle come true. The Pacific Northwest (specifically Eastern Washington) has been home to a large rodeo community since it was first settled, and the English riding disciplines have been growing in our area for some time. It is exciting to see polo gain a foothold as part of the equestrian community.
It was a brilliant day for a polo party, and the players and the spectators really delivered. The crowd was a mix of Seattleites and locals from Enumclaw and Covington, all interested in getting to better know the sport while enjoying the family atmosphere. One attending local—whose family has lived in Enumclaw for 20 years—commented that he loves how the new facility will bring the Seattle community together with his rural community of Enumclaw. Town and country is not an either-or proposition for well-to-do Seattleites. Spectators dressed to the nines in cocktail attire, seersucker suits and bow ties, and the ladies topped it off with bold hats for the colorful and creative hat contest.
Field-side, tailgaters watched thundering hooves drive the ball down the field, while eating, drinking and communing under white tents. A VIP section provided a full service experience with a catered meal and refreshments. Branded Seattle Polo and Equestrian Club t-shirts and caps were a big hit. It helps when the president of the club is also a great designer. Who wouldn’t feel cool sporting the polo club logo?
Sue Hubble, a hunter/jumper was out to her show support of the event, along with Teresa Sullivan a western pleasure rider. Both board their horses at the equestrian center. Patricia Szabo, Director of Providence O’Christmas Trees (the fundraising arm of Providence Mount St Vincent foundation) was in attendance with her husband Alex, and Executive Leadership Team Member Scott Walden and his husband. Patricia took home the Nordstrom prize for “Most Spirited Hat.” O’Christmas Trees tree designer Lydia Voiland brought her stylish group to the party as well with her husband, financial advisor Steve Voiland. It was no surprise that the stylish graphic designer, Lydia Voiland took home the John Deere prize for “Sexiest Hat.”
The entertainment between the games started off with a traditional divot stomp, which children especially like. For polo novices who may not know the ins-and-outs, stomping the divots happens after a chukker when spectators are asked to stomp the grass back into place after it has been kicked up by horses and polo mallets. People wander across the field looking for upturned clots of dirt to step on while leisurely chatting with friends.
Following the divot stomp, two prancing horses with glittery outfitted riders wowed the crowd with an Andalusian Musical Freestyle Pas de Deux show. Next came a viewing of an impressive sleek and glossy Arabian champion show horse from Midcrest Arabian owner Stan Keeter, who also boards at the SPEC facility. Last, it was time for the Hat Contest. Ladies lined up to show off their beautiful and unique hats, and I and Vanguard Seattle‘s Executive Editor Sarah Caples were the judges.
The categories were “The Sexiest Hat,” “The Most Spirited Hat,” “Best Hat on Someone Under 12,” “The Best Polo/Derby Theme Hat,” “The Most Colorful Hat,” and “The Best Hat Overall,” which was a gorgeous wide brimmed hat, both whimsical and vibrant. It was wonderful to see how many ladies put their best foot forward and either bought or crafted an array of flamboyant head-toppers.
The Polo Pros
The rugged men who make up the Seattle Polo Team and give us a reason to keep watching are from the US, Argentina and Mexico. Many spectators were new to the sport, but the game is fairly easy to understand, and the team is small enough to get to know. In polo, amateurs and pros play together. A player will own 7 to 20 horses using around 6 in a game. Players are rated based on their handicap with low numbers at the “Novice” level and 10 being “Perfect.” Only a small number of players advance beyond 3 goals and a 2 indicates a pro. About two thirds of the USPA rated players have a 2 goal handicap or less.
The Seattle Polo team the line up is as follows: The Argentine pros are Nicolas Maciel (3 goals, going to 4 goals starting January 2015), Ernesto Mana (1 goal), Segundo Bengeola (2 goals), and Ramon Castilla (3 goals); the American pros are Dan Juarez (3 goals), Seth Alcott (2 goals), Curtis Lindahl (1 goal); the Mexican pro is Carlos Zamora (2 goals). Cameron Smith goes to 1 goal as of January 2015.
The tournament concluded with a trophy and award ceremony, which went to the home team, Seattle Polo. This inaugural polo experience for the Northwest was a brilliant success. Learning the ins and outs of the game and the team will come in due time, but one thing is certain: Polo is an easy game to like. Perhaps it has something to do with the connection it gives us to horses, who have been our partners throughout history. Or maybe it’s the social environment it fosters. In all events, we are certainly better off for it and we wish Cameron Smith and his family well for sharing their passion with us.
For more information go www.seattlepoloparty.com