Aspen Valley Polo Club Hosts Inaugural Pony Club Day On Saturday
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Aspen Valley Polo Club
Molly Mitchell and her Eagle River Pony Club teammates have been counting the days until their first polo lesson at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
“They are super excited about Saturday,” said Kim Mitchell, Molly’s mom. “The girls are beside themselves.”
The four-year-old club with fifteen members, ages 9-15, got their first exposure to polo at the July 24th Basalt Handicap final at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The club members visited with ChukkerTV announcer Dale Schwetz during halftime and were awards presenters during the post-game ceremony where they got to meet the players.
“The girls were awestruck,” said Wendy Armstrong, the club’s secretary. “We were all blown away. They went above and beyond hosting us at the polo game and now they have invited us back. We
feel privileged to ride their horses and learn polo.”
The Eagle River Pony Club members will take their first polo lesson during Saturday’s first-of-its-kind Pony Club Day that will feature a Kids Tournament and “Skill of the Game” Pony Club activities beginning at 11 a.m.
More than a dozen students of The Polo School, pro players and club members will also participate in what promises to be a fun day of polo.
Pony Club is one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world, represented throughout 30 countries. The United States has over 600 individual Pony Clubs in 48 states and the
Virgin Islands, with more than 12,000 members.
Pony Club provides opportunities for instruction and competition in riding, horse sports and horse management for children and young adults. The term “pony” reflects the age of the members, rather than the size of the mount. Horses and ponies of many different breeds, shapes and sizes are seen in Pony Club activities. It’s not necessary for a child to own a horse or pony to be in Pony Club.
Programs are offered in dressage, eventing, show jumping, mounted games, tetrathlon, quiz, vaulting, fox hunting and polocrosse. During “unmounted” meetings members learn about nutrition, farrier and veterinary care along with other areas of horse management.
Aspen Valley Polo Club owner and longtime polo player Melissa Ganzi has a soft spot for Pony Club. She began riding in Equitation and Hunter divisions through her local Pony Club. Some of her best childhood memories are heartwarming experiences with Pony Club.
And now Melissa, her husband Marc and hardworking staff at Aspen Valley Polo Club are creating heartwarming memories for the Eagle River Pony Club.
“We have an incredible group of girls who have done really well,” Armstrong said. “We won our regional quiz rally in Denver for the last three years.
“A couple of the girls have seen polo matches but this was our complete first exposure to what it takes to play polo. It was all brand new to everybody.”
The girls got a tour of the world-class facility and new barns, and got a chance to talk with renowned veterinarian Darrin Tamplin and others.
“The girls didn’t want to miss a beat, they were in awe of everything they heard and saw,” Armstrong said. “The funniest thing was they were impressed with what the players called pony express when they changed horses, the players never touched the ground. The girls were flabbergasted by that.
Every time there was a horse change the girls would yell ‘pony express, pony express.’
“They loved the fast pace of the game and how quickly they took care of the horses. The horses are so well-cared for.”
The Pony Club members were invited to return on Saturday for a complimentary lesson and clinic.
Molly Mitchell joined Pony Club when she was 8. Both Molly and her mom show and ride.
“They are still talking about that day,” Kim Mitchell said. “The thing that gets me as a parent is the fact the sport is so family-oriented. You had fathers, sons, grandfathers, mothers and daughters out there. That was really neat.
“After she watched the game, she said she wanted to learn to play polo and ride one of those horses. That day turned out to be so much more than we ever expected. And now the girls are coming out for a lesson. The Ganzi family are the most generous people on the planet and so excited to share their passion for polo.”
Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest polo clubs hosting various grass, indoor and outdoor arena tournaments and has been the hottest ticket during the 2016 summer season.
Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Arena Polo, Kids Polo and The Polo School at the club owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi since 2014, in addition to practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the USPA National Arena Chairman’s Cup along with the remainder of the 2016 summer season in Aspen and East Coast Open later this month in Greenwich, Conn.