Aiken, SC Part 2: Sunday Polo!

Steeplechases, foxhunting, eventing, trailriding, and polo; all the horse activities make for an equestrian oasis in Aiken, SC. There are so many options for places to ride in the area, and unlike some equestrian paradises in the winter, Aiken has a pretty happening social scene! The Willcox, Malia’s, Tako Sushi, Aiken Brewing Company, Locals….so many great places for dinner and drinks!

Anyways, back to the horses! If you have seen equestrian sports in the olympics on TV, you have probably seen some large, athletic horses! Jumpers, eventing, and dressage has lots of warmbloods, maybe some thoroughbreds. Maybe you have watched some horse racing and seen the incredibly graceful and powerful thoroughbreds, or you have seen the gentle giants, clydesdales, pulling the Budweiser wagon in a parade. Polo ponies are literally a different breed! They are smaller, stocky, but nimble and athletic. The ones that we rode, and many like them, are from Argentina. They are bred from mixes of ranch ponies (quarterhorses), and thoroughbreds. They call a quarterhorse/tb mix an appendix horse.

Polo ponies are trained to accept being up close and personal with other horses. They must have a quick stop, quick turn, and quick acceleration. With that though, they also must be a quiet mount, that at the end of the chukker, will walk quietly back to the line. They are smart, aware of the ball, mallet, and other players. My friend that was down in Aiken for the winter had her horses in a paddock next to seven happy little polo ponies. The amazingly talented exercise rider for these ponies took my friends and I out to play a little polo on Sunday. This man typically will ride one of the ponies, and “pony” (tieing other horses to the one you are riding) the other 6 to exercise all 7 at once…amazing. Here are some pics from the adventure:

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Just before we headed back, ponies were awesome, noone fell off, all is well 🙂
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The ride back to the stables from the polo field. Don’t we look so official carrying our mallets??
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Post polo pony picture (P.P.P.P)
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Always nice to come back greeted by a cute horse face! His name is Guy 🙂

We had an awesome time. My horse’s name was Big Mayo, even though he was pretty small. We had a short little trail ride to the polo field, then did some warming up and practicing hitting the ball with the mallet, and then we played a little game. I have taken a couple polo lessons, but this was the longest amount of time that I had that mallet, and man, my right hand/arm is still sore!!

It was the perfect way to end the weekend, laughing and riding with my best girls. Just a couple more weeks until my wedding! Despite the fun, I was happy to come home to my lovely fiance and pup who were hard at work finishing last minute things up for the big day!! 🙂

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Aiken SC Part 1: The Willcox & Steeplechase!

Aiken SC….its sorta a horsewoman’s paradise. The town was/is referred to as the “winter colony”, a place where the wealthy northerners like the Vanderbilts would come play- especially during that gilded age. Summers in Newport RI, winters in Aiken SC, what could be better? The trifecta of activities was polo in the morning, golf in the afternoon, and foxhunting at night….leisure activities only please.

This past weekend I headed down to Aiken with some friends from the barn I ride at for the 50th running of the spring Aiken Steeplechase (they have one in the fall too)! We got in Friday night for tempura asparagus & key lime martinis (the best) at Tako Sushi and then headed over to the The Willcox for dinner. The Willcox is a hotel with an amazing restaurant. The architecture of the building, decor, as well as the beautiful pool area makes you feel like you have been transported to a time when women carried parisols, and really dressed for dinner. You can almost hear the clip clop of hooves pulling well appointed carriages and their well appointed passengers for dinner. We ate in the lounge area with a piano player. We had wine, chicken liver pate & port wine gelee with toasted bread  (which is amazing), the mystic melville cheese with cranberry preserves and crusty bread, sauteed brussel sprouts, and the pasta of the day which was a delicious pasta primavera with shaved parmesan. I can’t say enough good things about the food. Here are some pics from The Willcox!

From there we went out to Harry’s Local Oyster Bar, called ‘Locals’ by the locals. This place is a really fun sorta dive bar, really laid back, super fun staff. We stayed out way too late, but needed to get our Locals fix because Locals was closed Saturday for the Steeplechase and Sunday!

Saturday, we were off to the Steeplechase. We had such a fun day. We got tickets to be in the guarantor tent which included great parking, an awesome buffet lunch, a live band, a spot right at the second fence to watch, and an open bar! If you have never been to a steeplechase, it is a race ran on grass usually, and there are jumps! The buffet lunch included some southern comfort food like fried chicken and a cheesy hashbrown casserole, a great salad, fresh fruit and cheese, quiche, and grilled asparagus. It rained intermittently throughout the day so we were very thankful to have the tent to run under!

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Our spot to watch was right at the second jump! Wearing my Lilly Pulitzer (old) and Palm Beach Sandals!
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Palm Beach Sandals & Jack Rogers, Lilly Pulitzer and Sail to Sable

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It was such a fun event despite the rain. Everyone was dressed smartly, I have never seen so much seersucker and Lilly in my life. Lots of brightly colored pants and fun bowties for the gentlemen, Lilly prints, bows, and hats for the ladies. We went to Malia’s for dinner that evening and then met other friends out at the Aiken Brewing Company for a drink before heading back to the farm. Malia’s was delicious, but I will say that Willcox was my favorite 🙂

Tune in for part 2 of my Aiken trip about the farm that my friend stayed at this winter AND our awesome polo lesson!

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Weekend Recap: Polo, trails, & sushi

Friday night, I had an awesome jumping lesson with Dutch, a very forward horse. We rocked around a course of gates and cross rails at the canter which is a huge step up for me. It was so fun. I still have a lot to work on though, more bend at the hip over the jump, better release of the reins on the horse’s mouth, and we have to get better at picking up the right lead to the next jump.

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Saturday morning I went back to Stage Hill Polo for another lesson. We played a little 2 on 2 scrimmage, and it was so fun. My teammate Lydia got a goal, and I got a goal…..and then I sadly got a goal for the other team. I was trying to hit it back away from the goal, but my own backswing hit it in the goal. Steve told me this happens all the time hahaha. This is it for me though, I will maybe go back in the spring/summer to play some more polo. Stage Hill Polo does take part in a winter arena league that  I was invited to play in but I have three afternoons of class this spring so its just not going to work out right now. I am going to be lucky to get a practice ride in on a day that I don’t have class at my own barn. This is Salsa even though I actually got to ride Jet, one of Steve Rudolph’s horses. Most of these horses are heading down to Palm Beach for the winter this week- lucky huh?

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Saturday afternoon I took the pup for a trail run, a nice 4 miler, and it was just beautiful out. Then Saturday evening, the fiancé and I headed out with a couple friends for all you can eat sushi up in Nashua NH. It…was…amazing. I love good sushi and we definitely got our money’s worth. My favorites are the spicy tuna roll, spider maki with the fried soft-shell crab, and any of those specialty rolls with the crab meat on top. I had a nice light Sapporo with my delicious sushi while a couple others shared a scorpion bowl- doesn’t taste like alcohol at all, super dangerous 🙂

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Mizpah out on the trail
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Don’t shoot the dalmatian! #notadeer
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So much sushi….arm party from KJP and Charming Charlie’s 🙂

Sunday was a rainy & cold day here in Massachusetts. We made bacon and eggs for breakfast and then later on made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, so good!!!

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I have a very short work week this week- just Monday & Tuesday. I am so looking forward to seeing friends & family for Thanksgiving. What kind of trouble did you all get up to this past weekend? Anyone have any good black Friday sales they are planning to hit up? I will be opting outside Friday with REI hiking with family and the pup, but I might have to take a peak at some online sales 😉

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Polo lessons with Stage Hill Polo

As I sit here watching Love at the Christmas Table on Lifetime snuggled up with my pup and some hot chocolate, its tough to remember just how cold I was Saturday morning up at Stage Hill Polo! Mizpah (the pup) is actually a bit damp right now because I had to bathe girlfriend after she got into something on the trails today…traildogprobs.

Anyway, I might be in love with polo. I don’t think I have aspirations of playing the crazy upper level polo, but I had so much fun Saturday! We just worked on hitting an arena polo ball at nothing more than a walk. Next time I am hoping for a trot. We’ll see. The groupon deal for these lessons was crazy affordable so I can actually afford to keep riding at my barn too while I take a few more polo lessons.

Not having a horse, finding opportunities like this to spend time with horses is amazing. Stage Hill Polo is run by Peter Poor and they compete at Myopia Polo’s tournaments. His father Joseph Poor and him are both polo legends. I mean, the arena at Myopia is named after Joseph Poor. Peter’s two daughters Amanda & Alyson are also amazing polo players.  I watched Stage Hill Polo play at Myopia recently actually (see the post here!). Dan Keating of Newport Polo learned how to play polo with Stage Hill. Here are some pics from the morning thanks to my amazing fiancé. I rode a horse named Salsa, owned by the Poor family, and her photo hangs at the Polo Museum Hall of Fame. The horses were all in awesome condition, you can tell they are truly loved and taken care of at Stage Hill.

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I think that there is a movement right now to make polo more accessible to the masses….instead of 3 amazing polo players and one rich guy which is what we often see in the higher level polo world, Stage Hill Polo is trying to create a polo community….where many moderately committed horse people pay bits of money to participate in the great sport of polo. Making polo less exclusive is profitable. Maybe one person for ever five that shows up for a lesson actually sticks with it, but the more people into the sport, bringing money into these barns, the better for everyone. More teams, more tournaments, more players….sounds good for Myopia. Now I am not saying that there isn’t some serious high quality polo going on at Myopia, because there is, but developing this community will create a feeder system, of younger athletes. We might not be socialites or royalty, BUT we just want to pay a fee to learn and use your horses. We aren’t at a place in our lives where we want our own barn of polo ponies to take care of, but we will contribute to yours in exchange. Stage Hill Polo doesn’t want to hide polo, or hold it up above our heads. Peter Poor wants to bring people in to the world of polo, not keep people out. Do as much as you can do or want to do.

Steve Rudolph was our instructor for this lovely lesson, and he was great. Everyone at Stage Hill was great, it was an awesome experience. The price thanks to Groupon was just right too 😉

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Sunday Funday at Myopia Polo

Yesterday a few girlfriends and I ditched football and spent that afternoon watching some polo! Myopia Polo is the oldest active polo club in America, the grounds are beautiful. They host matches for Harvard, Boston Polo, international matches, and they have quite a few family teams from the area that play in tournaments for Myopia. Yesterday’s matches were between some of the Myopia teams in remembrance of Patti Lahey who passed away from cancer in August. She was an amazing woman in Massachusetts’ North Shore horse community. They had her friends come up and tell stories about Patti during breaks in the match, it was very sweet and touching.

One of the Myopia teams is called Stage Hill Polo and they also do lessons. I am planning on doing a lesson with them in November thanks to an awesome Groupon!  Other places in New England that do lessons for polo are Newport Polo in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which also does matches and tailgating, and then Patch Wood Farm in Sandown NH does lessons for other riding disciplines too. I did a lesson at Newport Polo and it was awesome, but its just too far a drive. I am so happy I saw the Groupon for Stage Hill. I love finding new things to do with horses 🙂

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It was a lovely fall afternoon. They charge $10/pp for admission, and we grabbed some champagne, OJ, Boursin  & crackers from the grocery store. My friend brought some smoked bluefish caught right off Martha’s Vineyard. Like our table?? Its a cooler with my friend’s horse’s Baker sheet over it ha! Not too shabby!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend and got outside to enjoy some fall weather activities!

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