Big Horn Polo Club emphasizes fun, relaxed atmosphere

BIG HORN — Perk Connell loves buying trophies.

The Big Horn Polo Club president said it’s one of her favorite parts of the job, and she has a trophy for just about anything that happens on the field. MVPs, runners-up — she even has prizes for horses.

“I like to make sure everybody has a good time,” Connell said.

That goes for polo players and fans this summer. The 2021 season of tournament play was scheduled to begin with the Powder Horn Realty Cup Sunday, but the event was canceled due to rain and unsafe conditions for the players and their ponies.

The club returns July 9 with Friday Night Lights games every Friday at 5 p.m. and weekly Sunday tournament games at 1 and 3 p.m. Admission is free, and attendance typically ranges from 300-500 spectators, said club manager Kristine Dalton.

“But we can have as many people as want to come,” Dalton said.

Last summer, despite COVID-19, Dalton and Connell both said it was one of the busiest seasons in club history. But the safety protocols closed the grandstands and made the experience a little bit more sterile.

“It was very busy, but it was just kind of isolated,” Dalton said. “People did their thing and then went home. But we’re a very social group of people, so for us to not be social is kind of hard.”

This year looks more normal. The grandstands are reopening, and there will be food trucks and merchandise available at every game.

But the on-field action is still meant to be the real draw, and Dalton and the club aim to keep it competitive.

Every Saturday, Dalton assigns the players to new teams and tries to ensure they are as balanced as possible.

“The whole point is to make it fun for everybody,” said Dalton, who has managed the club for nine years. “I build the teams to keep it fair. That’s why everybody has fun here. If you play against someone this Sunday, you might get mad at them. And then, you’ll play with them next weekend.”

Along with the Flying H Polo Club in Big Horn, the Big Horn Polo Club draws premier players from all over the world. They’ll compete until the beginning of September.

In July, the club’s two biggest events are the Wyoming Rodeo Cup July 18 and the Shane Winkler Memorial Tournament July 20-25. The club finishes with Don King Days from Aug. 29 through Sept. 6.

“You’re going to come out and see the best polo in the county for this time of year,” Connell said. “And you’re going to have fun. It’s in the prettiest, safest place (at Big Horn Equestrian Center). I don’t want people to judge the polo players as ritzy or haughty — they always get that reputation. We’re not. You do not have to dress fancy. We just want you to come out and enjoy it.”

And odds are, you’ll see some trophies being handed out, too.

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