Flying H Polo battles rainy weather, gears up for season with adjusted schedule

BIG HORN — All was quiet Thursday at the Flying H Polo Club. A cool breeze blew through the barns, and riders cantered polo ponies in the fields against the backdrop of the Bighorn Mountains. But at its first match of the summer Thursday, July 6, Flying H will be buzzing with energy as it begins its 19th season in operation.

The club will continue to host three games every Thursday and Saturday — as well as two Sunday games — throughout the season, which runs until late August.

This year, game times will be at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. — in previous years, they were held at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. All are free and open to the public. The club will have food trucks and merchandise on site, with space for spectators to tailgate, socialize and watch one of Sheridan County’s most treasured sports.

Flying H Polo Club Manager Will Johnston said recent cool temperatures have made the horses fresh and ready to work, but this year’s unusually rainy weather has made it challenging for players to get in enough practice time.

“This weather has made this year very difficult for us to get ready. We’re all a little stressed,” Johnston said. “All of our members, they have to prepare themselves and their horses. I want everybody to be safe, and to keep people safe they have to get enough practice in before we actually play a match. So this spring has really kept us on our toes.”

Johnston described the polo fields at Flying H as their “secret to success.” The fields were meticulously designed and are constantly maintained. Hayley Klintworth, marketing and public relations director for Flying H, said layers of sand — which are perfected at the club’s sand processing plant — underneath the fields soak in excess rainwater. The turf is made primarily of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, and is preserved with a regimen of fertilizer, irrigation and precise cutting.

Johnston said the world-class fields, combined with the beauty of the natural landscape, are anchors that push some of the world’s best polo players to make the journey to Flying H year after year.

Despite the unforgiving weather, Johnston and Klintworth anticipate a strong season and are happy to continue the club’s tradition of a welcoming, familial atmosphere. Johnston said the community that forms around Flying H is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. He said most of the teams and players have spent multiple seasons playing at the club and develop real relationships with not just each other, but with staff, grooms and spectators alike.

“It’s so fun to see these familiar faces,” Johnston said. “Whether you’re taking care of horses, or came here to play, or whether you become one of our sponsors … no one leaves this without creating friendships and connections.”

Klintworth said she wants people to know the polo community is always excited to have newcomers. She said taking the initiative to attend a polo match for the first time can feel intimidating, but everyone at Flying H is happy to chat, point spectators in the right direction and help the community learn more about the sport.

“My favorite thing about it is that it’s for anyone,” Klintworth said. “You can come out with girlfriends and bring wine, you can come out with friends and tailgate. Young and old, anybody’s welcome.”

Caroline Elik is the education and sports reporter for The Sheridan Press. 

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