Polo, one of the world’s oldest team sports played on the backs of horses, can be a niche and expensive sport, but the new owner of Meadow Brook Polo Club in Old Westbury is making the sport more accessible to introduce locals to the club in their own backyard.
Chetan Krishna, who took over ownership last year, is wrapping up his second season managing the club.
Krishna said the Meadow Brook Polo Club is one of the oldest clubs in the United States, formed in 1881 as a venue for golf, polo, fox hunting and other equestrian sports. The polo field was established just three years after the club’s opening in 1884.
In the 1920s, the U.S. Open Polo tournament was held at the club’s Bethpage, L.I., field.
But as time has progressed, Krishna said popular interest in the sport has died off.
Krishna said many people have only a slight awareness of the sport of polo and few have an idea about how to explore it further. He said the history of the sport has lent it an air of eliteness, which turns many people away.
But Krishna’s objective is to fight this preconceived notion and provide a completely accessible polo club to new and old fans alike.
“Anyone can come watch and everyone has a great time with it,” Krishna said.
Krishna started as a player at Meadow Brook but said he was not happy with how the club was being managed. He said that while he was improving after two seasons on the field, he began seeking out other clubs to play at.
This is when the previous owners approached Krishna and asked him to take over the club.
Now in this position, Krishna said he is on a mission to revitalize the polo club, sharing the exciting and unique sport with potentially new fans and bringing the club into a new golden era.
Krishna has three plans of action to invigorate the club
His first plan of action is to update the playing fields.
“Build it, then they come,” Krishna said.
Meadow Brook Polo Club has three fields: Meadow Brook Polo Fields in Old Westbury, Bethpage Polo Field in Bethpage and Caumsett Polo Fields in Lloyd Harbor.
“We now have two fields that are phenomenal, in great shape, and it’s also important for the safety of horses, also movement of play and safety of players,” Krishna said.
The second aspect of revitalization was finding professionals to play at the club. He said this is important for the safety and enjoyment of the game.
The best match makeup, according to Krishna, is three professionals and one amateur on the team.
“Polo is not a game where you can have four amateurs play,” Krishna said.
But bringing in professionals means that the club has to attract them. Krishna said Meadow Brook is doing this by fostering relationships, implementing a nice field and hosting tournaments.
The third aspect is finding playing sponsors for the polo club in order to draw in new players for the sport.
Krishna said that while he has worked to achieve those three aspects, there is still more work to be done for Meadow Brook to be where Krishna envisions it.
“I’m not going to say that we’re where we want to be yet, but we’ve made significant strides for this season vs. the last year and the year prior to that,” Krishna said. “We’re hoping that next year is just going to be amazing.”
Krishna said his objective for the polo club is to make it more accessible for individuals who are interested in the sport but have never participated as either a spectator or a player.
He said through the three objectives he has pushed to implement, Meadow Brook is able to put on a good show for people to watch and fall in love with the sport, increasing its accessibility to patrons.
The polo season runs until Sept. 23 with tournaments held at the club’s fields every Saturday and an occasional Sunday. Tickets to watch the tournaments can be purchased online.
With the club located on Long Island’s North Shore, Krishna said it is looking to attract spectators of the sport locally and from the surrounding communities.
In tandem with drawing in spectators and putting on a good show, Krishna has also founded a polo academy at the club to train the next generation.
“It’s the follow-up to the next polo players,” Krishna said.
Krishna said that when he moved to the North Shore, he found it difficult to find a polo instructor. With his own experience and knowing that this may be an issue for others looking to join the sport, he set out on a mission to open an academy.
Meadow Brook’s polo academy is run by Kylie Sheehan, a USPA Certified Polo Instructor and former Team USPA member. The academy provides lessons for all levels, from those who have never been on a horse to the seasoned professional.
The club offers 12 different types of lessons, with booking available online for single classes or class packages at varying prices.
This is the first year the academy has been offering lessons at the polo club, and Krishna said it has garnered so much attention and interest that lessons are full.
He said there is high demand for their academy, so he plans to keep expanding the program to meet the community’s desires.
Krishna said the Northeast has a deep history in equestrian sports, but with changes over time sports like polo have tapered off in popularity. He said it is important to preserve this history.
“If you don’t make a concentrated effort of keeping it alive, it will die,” he said.
*A polo tournament held at Meadow Brook Polo Club on Aug. 5. (Photo courtesy of Meadow Brook Polo Club)