Texas Arena League (TAL) moved to the Austin area for the second leg of the TAL classic division. Dripping Springs Ranch Park (DSRP), located in the town of Dripping Springs just Southwest of Austin, is a municipal arena that hosts events from rodeos to conventions. With corrugated panels sponsored by various businesses and teams, build-out goals with Royal B Threads sponsored banners, and support from the USPA Polo Development Initiative, TAL was able to create a polo arena at a multi-million-dollar facility that had never hosted polo previously.
TAL Committee member and Austin resident Brady Williams commented, “TAL has been trying to find a non-traditional facility to use for polo and has looked at several different venues. We wanted to find a place that would be out of the elements, have good footing and be able to accommodate all of the players and horses that TAL attracts. The Dripping Springs Ranch Park facility immediately appeared to satisfy many of the TAL needs in a venue. The arena only needed adjustments for polo on three sides because one side was already a flat concrete wall. All the TAL team had to do was keep the ball in play and build goals. The standard arena size at the Dripping Springs facility is very close to a full-size polo arena and did not need adjustment. The facility was in good shape and most of the participants seemed to be pleased. The DSRP team was good to work with and very accommodating to try to make the facility function for the polo needs of TAL.”
“Robin [Sanchez] and the Texas Arena League continue to knock it out the park after each of these tournaments. We are so excited about the continued growth of this sport.” – Nick Stefanakis – TAL Competitor
Lily Sellers of DSRP commented on the event, “Dripping Springs Ranch Park was excited to host our first arena polo event with Texas Arena League on February 10 – 12. This discipline was new to our facility, and it served as a great learning experience for all our staff on the footing and arena needs for the sport, as well as the basic outline of how the games run. We really enjoyed working with Texas Arena League and all their participants and are hoping to have more arena polo events in our future!”
Friday games, on February 10, included play in the National Arena Delegates Cup, which began at Brookshire Polo Club, with Bar-Spur (Mark Osburn, Chad Bowman, Tiamo Hudspeth*), Chandler Ranch (Roxy Mounter, Shane Rice, Megan Flynn) and Dallas Polo Club (Nick Lahutsky, Zak Coleman, Will Walton) all having wins added to their records.
The C-Flight continued the Friday night polo with eight teams competing in the beginner league, including Major General Johnny Richardson, commander of the first cavalry division at Fort Hood, who played his first polo tournament after attending a Tom Goodspeed clinic at Texas Military Polo Club (Poteet, Texas) in January. “It was a tremendous experience attending the Texas Military Polo Clinic taught by Tom Goodspeed,” said Major General Richardson. “What an incredible experience to learn from the best. Then the welcoming and gracious members of the Texas Arena League got me into a C-Flight match within two weeks. I’m hooked!”
Chandler Ranch’s Shane Rice hits to goal.
Saturday, February 11, saw continued play in the Southwestern Circuit General George S. Patton, which included wins for Legends (Valeria Greco, Marcus Murphy, Rehan Kumble), Evergreen Equine (Alex King, Ashley Owen, Megan Flynn) and Horsegate (Nick Stefanakis, Lauren Sterr, Ariel Mancebo), who will continue in the Patton Legacy Sports sponsored tournament along with wildcard Texas Sun & Shade (Elyse Warren, Lindsey Bellack, Megan Rahlfs).
The Southwestern Circuit Arena Sportsmanship Cup began competition at DSRP with Bar-Spur (Amanda Osburn, Tanner Kneese, Mark Osburn), Frank’s Friendly Firearms (Lisa Yanskey, Annie Wu, Tiamo Hudspeth) and Three Amigos (Lexie Harlan, Ryan Cummings, Nadir Khan) advancing in the tournament with wins in their games. Patton Legacy Sports (Gal Shweiki, Karl Hilberg, Trey Crea) will join them as the wildcard at the next TAL event at Legends Polo Club (Kaufman, Texas).
Tanner Kneese has been playing in both the 0- to 3-goal and 3- to 6-goal leagues and took home Galvin Agency MVP honors at DSRP. “It’s been another great year of TAL with more players and increasing level of play. Playing 0-3 goal with fellow Texas Tech polo alumni Mark and Amanda Osburn has been a lot of fun. Also 3-6 goal with Sami Leach, Sydney Morris and Don English has been a blast. I’m very honored to have won Sportsmanship the first weekend of TAL in 0-3 goal and 3-6 goal. Winning MVP in Dripping Springs in 3-6 goal was incredible given the level of play. It’s been great seeing all the intercollegiate polo alumni and I very much look forward to next year!”
Dallas Polo Club’s Will Walton charges ahead of Horsegate’s Sloane Stefanakis.
On Sunday, February 12, play continued in the Southwestern Circuit General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. Horsegate (Anson Moore, Sloane Stefanakis, Nick Stefanakis), Eagle’s Landing (Victor Aguilar, Whitney Walker, Quique Garcia, Zak Coleman) and Herk’s Store & Grill (Wendy Stover, Megan Flynn, Ashley Owen) advanced with wins, while Dallas Polo Club (Jordan Upchurch, Gustavo Toro, Will Walton) received the wildcard for the tournament. The Southwestern Circuit Sherman Memorial began at DSRP with victories for Elite Motion & Performance (Amanda Massey, Mark Osburn, Tiamo Hudspeth), Clear Creek (Kim Vaughan, Nadir Khan, Joss Leufrancois) and Legends (Stephanie Colburn, Marcus Murphy, Rehan Kumble), who will advance along with wildcard Shweiki Media (Gal Shweiki, Karl Hilberg, Javier Insua) at the next TAL event.
“This year, Texas Arena League brought us to Dripping Springs, which was an incredible facility and was so close I was able to bring my whole family to play, even my young nieces and nephews who played C-Flight,” said TAL player Nick Stefanakis, who is competing with his sons and older nephew, Anson Moore in TAL and won Catena USA Sportsmanship award at DSRP. “Robin [Sanchez] and the Texas Arena League continue to knock it out the park after each of these tournaments. We are so excited about the continued growth of this sport.”
Olivia Reynolds, who is playing in both the 6- to 9-goal with Quiet Creek, the 3- to 6-goal with Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) women and the Division I Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship in April, was awarded two Nutrena Best Playing Pony prizes at DSRP. “I am super proud of Balenciaga and Tito for winning BPP in both the 3-6 Goal and 6-9 Goal Flights. Balenciaga won BPP in the 6-9 goal. [She] is a 10-year-old mare that I bought from Trevor Niznik in 2021. Her athleticism and sweet personality make her such a pleasure on and off the field. Tito is an 11-year-old gelding that I have had for six or seven years that I bought from Olivia Stringer Berube. Tito is definitely my handiest pony, and his dapples makes him absolutely adorable. He was one of my first polo ponies and has a special place in my heart. He runs my barn with his gelding charm, and he certainly loves all his mares. I love both of these ponies so much and am so honored for this award and their brand new Nutrena bell boots!”
Nutrena Best Playing Pony Tito, played and owned by Olivia Reynolds.
Brady Williams added, “By using a venue that was not traditionally setup for polo, it allows TAL to expand to areas and spectators that are not familiar with polo. It also allows participants to travel and experience places that they normally do not go to during a polo season.”
In addition to the weekend’s polo festivities, the Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas) polo team came out to DSRP to assist with TAL and hold a fundraiser for their club. Their raffle, which included items donated by Elite Motion & Performance, Aubone Mallets, Jackrabbit Tack, Casablanca, and RHS Media, was won by Emily and Marcus Murphy.
Texas A&M’s Cara Kennedy takes a powerful neckshot to goal.
Galvin Agency MVP
Zak Coleman – 2x
Megan Flynn – 2x
Mark Osburn – 2x
Kim Vaughan – 2x
Polo InterActive Sportsmanship
Balenciaga – Olivia Reynolds
Kiki – Garrett Bankhead, owned by Legends Polo Club
Uncle Lucious – Shane Rice, owned by Hidden View Farm
Camina – Valeria Navidad Insua
Misty – Ryan Cummings
Lady – Ariel Mancebo, owned by Horsegate
Uncle Lucious – Megan Flynn, owned by Hidden View Farm
Vegas – Lisa Yanskey
Zipper – Brady Williams, owned by Jessica Mignone
Rosie – Rehan Kumble, owned by Oak Bend Farm (2x)
Cash – Will Walton
Colors – Zak Coleman, owned by Victor Aguilar
Paola – Javier Insua
Tito – Olivia Reynolds
J Lo – Mark Osburn
*Tiamo Hudspeth is Team USPA alumna. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos courtesy of ©David Murrell.