Celebration of Life
Sunday May 24th, 3 PM
Poway Valley Riders Association Polo Arena
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
First Annual Russ Sheldon Memorial Polo Tournament on Monday May 25th at the Poway Valley Riders Association Polo Arena. This will be an invitational polo event open for viewing to anyone who wishes to attend. Featured match will be played by Russ’s kids, grandkids and family.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in Russ’s honor to one of the following:
Poway Polo Club
14325 Midland Road
Poway, CA 92064
Polo Training Foundation
70 Clinton Street
Tully, NY 13159
Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund
101 Pro Rodeo Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80919
August 17, 1940 – May 7th, 2015
A beloved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, Rodeo Supporter and Polo Angel.
One of seven children, Russ Sheldon was born into a family that was passionate about horses and riding. He seemed more comfortable on four legs than on his own two. Russ always found a way to incorporate horses and riding into his life. As a child, he delivered the local newspaper to the cottages on Lake Michigan on his Shetland Pony. In later years he was an active member of the Sheriff’s Posse in Michigan, and also participated in competitive trail rides.
Russ was born in Port Huron, Michigan, and became a Civil Engineer in the family business, Blue Water Aggregates, after graduating from Michigan State University.
In 1961, Russ married Carolyn “Charlie” Klein and together they had three children (3), Sherry, Billy and Michael. In the early years of their marriage, they lived in an old farmhouse where riding became an essential part of their daily lives. On Sundays after church, Russ would meet up with his siblings to go trail riding with their kids, and affectionately sold “Billy the Pony” amongst kids and cousins to encourage everyone to participate .
In the late 60’s Russ discovered broomstick polo in Michigan with the help of Merle Jenkins. In 1972, he left the family business to take a job on west coast. Russ took up residence with his family in Poway, CA, where their “string” began with three horses and a foal.
It didn’t take Russ long to get involved in the local community. The first thing the family did was join the Poway Valley Riders Association. That same year he became a Founding Member of the Poway Rodeo and was a permanent fixture on the Poway Rodeo Committee for over 43 years. Throughout his years of service, Russ has been elected Chairman of the Poway Rodeo five times.
In the late 70’s Russ once again discovered a new way to enjoy his horses. He met some people from Ramona and Valley Center, CA and they introduced him to Cowboy Polo. Russ was hooked. He started to play Cowboy Polo and travelled around the Western U.S. to compete in tournaments. Russ served the National Cowboy Arena Polo Association as past President, Secretary and Treasurer.
In 1989, Russ decided to try Arena Polo and went to the San Diego Polo Club for a free introductory lesson. After frustrating the Instructor by not listening, he was handed off to Vicky Owens. Vicky and husband Bob were instrumental in starting the Sheldon family in arena and grass polo.
“Vicky took us “Cowboys” into her fold and every weekend was spent playing polo at her ranch or at a tournament,” said Sherry Sheldon. “When our family would go to a tournament, there would be 3 rigs, 20 horses and 3 generations of Sheldon players. My mom, Charlie, was the greatest supporter for all of us on the sidelines, always cheering like crazy for us.”
Even a bought with colon cancer in 1997 wasn’t enough to slow down Russ’ passion for riding, instruction, and the sport of polo. Through radiation treatments he continued to climb faithfully on the back of his favorite horse Quincy each week and participate in chukkers. Preceded in death by Charlie in 2007, Russ made the decision to retire from work. He continued to give his time generously to the Poway Rodeo, and focused on building even more interest in arena polo. In the last few years, Russ managed 4 Interscholastic polo teams based out of Poway that competed at the national level. The Poway Interscholastic team won the National Interscholastic Championship title twice and were also runners-up to the title three times.
Since that first introduction to polo, Russ has dedicated countless hours to the sport. His passion and excitement for polo was contagious. Russ passed his love for polo and the rodeo along to his surviving family, Sherry and Brent Gibson, Billy and Sandy Sheldon and Michael and Mary Sheldon; and to his grandchildren, Shane and Danika Rice, Jared and Danielle Sheldon, Breanna and Austin Finch, Zach, Adam and Patrick Sheldon, Michael and Dylan Courtney; and great grandson Charles Sheldon.
Sherry reached a 2-goal arena polo handicap, and successfully founded Polodeo Ranch, a lesson and training business based out of Poway. She currently works the rodeo circuit and was a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Timer three times.
Billy has won 4 USPA Arena Open titles and was elected to the US team in the 1998 FIP World championships, and most recently coached the Poway Interscholastic polo team to the quarter-final round of the National Tournament. He currently has a handicap of 7-goals in the arena and 2-goals outdoors.
Michael grew up with horses and excelled and was recognized with many achievements in Cowboy Polo. He became a 1 goal arena player, but ultimately settled his focus in the computer industry.
Russ’ grandchildren also share his passion for horses and polo. Both Shane (in 2002) and Jared (In 2005) have been awarded Interscholastic Player of the Year, while Danika was recognized as the Intercolliegate Woman Player of the Year in 2006. Shane and Jared have both established successful careers as professional polo players, playing up to 20 goal polo on both coasts of the U.S. Danika has become a notable instructor and trainer based in Sealy, Texas. Each of the other grandkids, cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family have all spent time riding, on holiday trail rides, learning the sports of polo and rodeo, and enjoying family connection through passion for horses.
Served the United States Polo Association as Governor at Large, Delegate, National Arena Committee member and Intercollegiate-Interscholastic Western Regional Committee Chairman and Certified Umpire.
Tournament wins: USPA National Arena Amateur Cup 1990, 1991, 1996, 2001, Southern California Arena League Winner 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002
In 1997 recognized as Umpire of the Year in the Southern California Arena League.
“A Polo Angel is someone who gives back to the polo community and who advances the sport of polo, not only in monetary ways, but by also giving their time,” said Randy Russell. “Russ was a passionate promoter of Arena Polo throughout the United States.”
Most memorable moments in polo: 1999 Interscholastic National Championship won by the Poway team of his grandchildren, two high school freshmen (Shane & Danika) and a sixth grader (Jared) in their first year of Interscholastic competition coached by his son and daughter (Billy and Sherry) – Winning the USPA National Arena Amateur Cup in 1991 with daughter Sherry and son Billy, then again in 1996 with daughter Sherry and grandson Shane.
Pet polo projects: Starting young / new players in the sport of polo. Working in the Intercollegiate-Interscholastic programs, helping in the Arena Umpire Certification Program and Instructional Clinics. Promoting Arena Polo and helping new clubs get started properly.