Saturday mornings for the past several months have included some extra challenges for Ida Sankey and Kahla Onetto, with New Bridge Polo Club as the host site for Aiken Peewee Polo, offering the chance for some of Aiken’s youngest equestrians to learn the basics of the sport.
“The goal is to have the kids have fun riding together and play games to become better riders and to introduce them to the sport of polo,” said Sankey. “But really, it’s just to get the kids having fun riding together. They have more fun when they’re doing it with friends.”
New Bridge is an 861-acre private, gated equestrian community nestled among rolling pasture lands just 15 minutes from downtown Aiken.
Sankey and Onetto helped turn the Peewee Polo idea into reality, and retired professional polo player Tiger Kneece is on board.
The weekly gatherings started in the fall of 2021 and, weather permitting, have kids from pre-school up through elementary school, including some who may aspire to play on the team Kneece has helped establish for middle-schoolers.
The leadline program is generally for kids ages 7 and under, with parents within an arm’s length, to help keep things from getting out of hand.
The next step up is the walk/trot group, for kids of about 10 and under – riders who can ride independently but aren’t sufficiently advanced or old enough to join the middle-school squad.
The older kids, in turn, have practices on Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons and cover plenty of miles in competitions as far afield as Florida and Maryland.
“I really enjoy it,” said team member Amelia Claire Akins, 12, who has been learning polo for about a year and started horseback riding about three years ago. “I’m used to being around horses, and also, I like to go really fast; and that’s something you can do with polo.”
Riding skills and effective communication, she said, are essential in terms of progressing in the sport.