Social distancing rules apply, but fans and players are glad to be back in the game

Polo may be the perfect pandemic sport, supporters say.

Consider that players are penalized for crowding opponents; social distancing has always been the norm when it comes to horse sports. Too, play is spread across a pitch the size of nine football fields, and though the action is concentrated, the physics of speed and movement dictate there’s rarely a time that players are occupying the same space.

In a summer when horse sports have been curtailed due to COVID-19, area clubs have found ways to continue as Virginia enters Phase 3 of reopening efforts.

“Great Meadow has plenty of space,” said longtime Great Meadow Polo Club president and manager John Gobin, room for players and spectators alike. Gobin said play started up at the field events center near The Plains last week, with Twilight series boxholders invited to attend matches swapped from the smaller, enclosed arena to the vast, open field. “We (spray painted) parking spaces around the perimeter,” Gobin said, marking spots for individual parties for spectators.

“It worked fine,” said Twilight Polo boxholder Nina McKee, herself a pupil at the Blue Rock Polo School near her home in Rappahannock County. “No one was complaining about the rules, and everybody had fun.

“Everybody’s just happy to get out.”

Upcoming tournaments planned at Great Meadow include the $10,000 National Arena Challenge Cup, 3-6 goal, in July, and the $30,000 National Arena Chairman’s Cup, 9-12 goal, in August. The $2,500 Master Cup, 0-4 goal, July league will continue on the grass field visible from U.S. 17.

The Great Meadow polo arena was built in 1993, the regulation-sized grass field added in 2001.

Willow Run Polo owner-operator German Noguera said his school operations have reopened as well. “Of course, we observe strict social distancing anyway most of the time,” he said, saying that’s for pure safety with horses anyway. “Some of the (South American) professional players got stuck from traveling back to the U.S. with the travel restrictions, but, otherwise, we’ve barely slowed down due to coronavirus.”

Willow Run offers lessons in an enclosed arena and on the field, joining other local teams for league and tournament play.

Social play was curtailed at the new Kingland Farm field in Middleburg, and the Morven Park summer series in Leesburg was canceled.

“This was a heart-breaking decision to make, but I know we made the right call for the fans, the players and the community,” said Morven Park executive director Sheryl Williams.

Details on Great Meadow polo are at greatmeadowpoloclub.com. Find Willow Run Polo on Facebook. 

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