A Conversation with Roger St. Clair. Polo Player, Big Horn Polo Club President, and Associate Broker with CENTURY 21 BHJ Realty, Inc.
Q: Roger, share with us what is new at the Big Horn Polo Club?
A: Well, polo in Big Horn is really exciting this summer. Games, spectators, community support, horse sales, it’s all going well.
Briefly, the BHPC (amazingly enough) begain in the mid 1890’s … and since then there has been a huge equine impact in this area. Especially with the neighboring Flying H Polo Club that the Skey Johnston Family founded in 2005. The club is right next to where we play and it has successfully developed a High Goal Polo club that is active in July and August … actually it’s one of only four places in the United States where High Goal polo is played. One is in Santa Barbara, CA; one in Greenwich, CT; another in Bridgehampton, NY, and finally the Flying H Polo Club right here. So it has actually brought a lot of renewed and new exciting interest to polo in Big Horn, Wyoming.
But back to your question about what else is going on this summer. Right now we have about 35 playing members and we play basically “Low Goal Polo”, which is the same as green horse polo. (go to www.sportpolo.com for a summary of the rules). Several families who play with us have been raising polo horses for 3-4 generations, and are still actively creating polo prospects (polo horses) for sale. The advent of the Flying H Club has brought the high goal professionals and sponsoring players to Big Horn, greatly increasing the overall interest in polo horses raised in Big Horn. Last year, we sold about 40 head of horses from club players to high goal and pro ranked polo players … and those horses sold from about $7500 to $175,000.
Q: Is there a way of telling what Polo means to our area economically?
A: Well, the sales I just mentioned have their own positive economic impact to the Sheridan area. It adds up when a “totally renewable resource”, such as these young horses, are bought and sold.
And speaking of economic impact, here’s how else it has a positive effect for Sheridan: Through to the end of August, we practice on Wednesdays and Fridays and have games on Sundays, and on any given day we play Big Horn Polo, we see about 200-250 horses at the Big Horn Polo Field. Consider that every horse carries around $100 worth of shoes, is being pulled around in a large trailers, and has grooms and other employees of the players that take care of every horse. It’s no small production.
Q: Is BHPC the “overseer” of all the Big Horn Polo activities – in other words, what is the primary purpose of the BHPC?
A: Actually we are set up at the Big Horn Events Center where we pay green fees for playing . They operate and maintain the polo fields and then we basically rent the use of them. So we’re different from the Flying H club which is private and managed and maintained by the Johnston family and staff. I feel it’s important to say that they are absolutely gracious to the BHPC as far as not trying to overshadow our events. It’s a great, great relationship and we could not have asked for better neighbors than we have at the Flying H Club.
Q: If someone were thinking about moving to Sheridan – or is currently living here and have not yet had a chance to see a game – what should they expect to see?
A: The BHPC has tournament games on Sundays in June, July, and August at Noon and 2 p.m. The games are just great, plus there is lots of room, it’s a great place to bring out the family and sit down and enjoy Polo, have a tailgate, the kids can run around, there’s 70 plus acres of lawn to play on … it’s the perfect place for a family experience.
The Flying H plays on Thursdays and Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and again, it’s the High Goal, top tier players in the world that play at the Flying H. You’ll see unmatched horsemanship and ballstriking that just takes your breath away. So, both of the clubs are just east of Big Horn and are easy to get to and find. Games are free and both are open to the public.
Q: Can people drive right on in?
A: Yes, you just drive right in and park at the edge of the field.
Q: Roger, you also play Polo yourself, in addition to being President of the BHPC. What happens for you during the week as you prepare for games? A lot of people might not realize how much work and effort it takes to get ready for the Sunday games.
A: Polo horses are like endurance runners. They are much more fit than race horses, and have more lung capacity and they weigh less. They are ridden every day from about the 1st of May until we start galloping them and actually practicing and playing. After that they are ridden for 45 minutes twice a day as we start to really get them in shape. Once they are in shape, they will have to stay in shape and they are ridden every day except for one day off a week – generally Mondays.
Q: How many horses do you need?
A: There are six chukkers (periods) in a game, and some players will play each horse twice during a game. Three horses is a minimum. Many horses can do this, but it’s not optimal. Generally speaking, you’ll need a string of six Polo ponies to play and enjoy the game, and have a fresh horse every chukkar.
Q: You mention earlier you have some practice sessions during the week?
A: Yes, we have a Polo Manager that sets up our practices, and the players call in and let him know when they’d like to play. We generally have 4 practice games every Wednesday and Friday at 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. On these nights we get to work the horses and enjoy a good practice together, but it’s definitely not the same as Sunday tournament Polo. It’s a different event when everyone puts their white pants and jerseys on and play for real.
Q: How would someone who is interested in polo get started?
A: We would love to have pople come out and visit with us about beginning to play. We have free clinics in June and July every Saturday evening. They are free to the public and anyone can bring out whatever horse they prefer to ride and we then furnish mallets and helmets. We have some great instructors who can get you started – learn how to hit the ball, learn the rules. Even if you never intended playing, you’d learn the game making it enjoyable to watch as a fan. Many don’t understand the rules, and with a bit of training, at least a person can appreciate the fast horses or someone hitting the ball a long way. So if you are interested, call us at (307) 751-6969 to ask about our clincs, or perhaps private lessons.
Q: Finally, because you are both a polo player and a real estate broker what is the connection there for you?
A: Well, it’s kind of two-fold. First, I’m of course happy to share what I know about horse properties in our area for anyone looking to relocate here. Second – historically there has always been a strong correlation between a strong equine industry and a strong real estate market. Our market is currently strong – and past indications tell us it could remain this way for a while– so now is a good time and place to invest in land and recreational properties.