U.S. Team Wins Park’s Polo Tourney
By Shaneen Kohler

OCALA, Fla. (April 13, 2006) —

"What a great idea!" was the overwhelming response at Polo at the Park, the Florida Horse Park’s debut polo tournament, April 8. Held in the main arena on the park’s famous synthetic footing, the polo matches took place after the Ocala Jumping Classic had wrapped up for the day. Hundreds of spectators, many of whom had spent the day competing, were sipping cocktails and savoring dinner, catered by Bella Luna, and chatting with the polo players in between chukkers (periods).

Called the Founders’ Cup Polo Tournament, the players came from Mexico, Barbados and the United States. The winner of the Founders’ Cup Trophy was a team from the United States. Ocala’s Brad Limehouse, the new polo instructor at the Florida Horse Park, scored the two goals that were to be the deciding factor in the arena game, which he described as being "very different from regular polo…Instead of playing on grass, we’re playing on a synthetic blend. It’s a smaller field with a different ball, a bigger, spongier one. And there are three players instead of four," explained Limehouse. "It’s a different game, but it’s still a very exciting game."

‘Off to a Good Start’
Most of the players were in the area for The Villages Polo Club’s International Polo Week. "The Villages Polo Club and the Florida Horse Park have had a real good relationship," said the polo manager at The Villages Polo Club, Lord Lyall, who helped organize the event at the horse park "We’re working with each other, rather than against each other…We’re off to a good start."

One of the goals of Polo at the Park was to introduce polo to people and encourage participation in the sport. The players and organizers were interactive with the spectators and were quick to point out the sport’s benefits.

"Polo is like hockey on horseback; there is a lot of bumping, fast action and thrills," said Limehouse.

Riders from Mexico, Barbados and the United States came together at the Florida Horse Park for its first polo event, Founders’ Cup Polo Tournament, April 8.
Photo by Eleanor Hancock

"It is fun and it is exciting," added Memo Steta, a 1-goal player from Mexico, who got started in polo when he was 35. He recommended learning polo "when you are a kid, when your swing will come naturally. It is harder to learn when you learn as an adult." Steta, who has been playing for six years, said, "The best thing is to hire a good professional player if you are serious about getting into polo," he advised. Also, take park in clinics with the high-goal players. Steta said he got some lessons from 6-goal player Roberto Gonzalez, who participated in Polo at the Park.

Clinics and lessons are exactly what the Florida Horse Park has in mind. Limehouse, a 4-goal player and the park’s resident polo instructor, may be holding a clinic there in May. "The plan is to offer polo lessons at the park. However, the frequency of the lessons depends on the amount of interest shown. If the lessons are well-attended, we might offer them weekly," said Limehouse.What Makes a Good Player?

To appreciate a game of polo or to learn the sport, you have to know what makes a good player.

According the Limehouse, "A good polo player is one who is a good horseman, has hand/eye coordination skills and is aggressive yet even-tempered." He said the hardest aspect of the game is learning to "stop, turn, change direction and hit the ball — all at the same time."

Carlos Zamora, a veterinarian in Ocala who has only been playing polo for a couple of years, sees it a little differently: "The hardest part is galloping, stretching out and hitting the ball, all without falling off," he said with a chuckle.

Kit Collins, also a polo player, agrees with both Limehouse and Zamora. That is why he offers virtual polo lessons to help players with their balance and swing. The only one of its kind in North America, Collins brought this mechanical horse to the Florida Horse Park, April 7-8, to help players with their swings. Called Virtual Polo, this contraption uses video, computers and strategically-placed sensors to diagnose a player’s swing and balance.

"Virtual polo is a great idea, though I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet," said Limehouse, adding that whether a real one or a mechanical one, "If you try (polo), you’ll be hooked. It is intoxicating and it is addictive. When you do it, the light goes on."

Next Polo at the Park:
April 22 — Polo at the Park, Celebrity Polo, Florida Horse Park, Ocala, 6 p.m. $10 general admission. $25 VIP admission with catered dinner, wine and beer. Live and silent auction. Presentation of Horse Fever horse, Copper Charm, to Florida Horse Park by Laurie Jones. Contact: Margaret Rowell, www.flhorsepark.com, (352) 307-6699.

For details on Polo at the Park, including the next event on April 22, visit www.flhorsepark.com or call (352) 307-6699.

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