Polo finds a home in Bristol

With little fanfare and open gates, Mt. Hope Farm welcomes visitors to weekly polo ‘matches’

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/13/19

The “sport of kings” has come to Bristol, and organizers hope it’s here to stay.

If you’ve ever passed through Portsmouth around 5 p.m. on a summer Saturday, you know where …

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Polo finds a home in Bristol

With little fanfare and open gates, Mt. Hope Farm welcomes visitors to weekly polo ‘matches’

Posted

The “sport of kings” has come to Bristol, and organizers hope it’s here to stay.

If you’ve ever passed through Portsmouth around 5 p.m. on a summer Saturday, you know where to find Newport Polo. The popular Newport International Polo Series is held June through September at Glen Farm in Portsmouth, and hundreds of spectators can be seen filing in and out of the farm on match nights.

Newport Polo is actually the functioning body of the Westchester Polo Club, which was America’s first polo club. Established in 1876, the club made its summer headquarters and polo grounds in Newport, where its members “summered” — and played polo — until 1929. The pastime was out of favor locally for several decades until it was revived as Newport Polo in 1992.

Still registered with the United States Polo Association under the historic Westchester name, today Newport Polo offers public exhibition matches and polo club member services for grass and arena polo, and polo instruction year-round. The Newport International Polo Series, featuring teams from around the world and from major U.S. cities competing against USA/Newport, has become increasingly popular each year since its revival; these days, coveted fieldside tailgate spots sell out in late winter, while snow still blankets the fields.

Gina Macdonald, managing director of Mount Hope Farm, thought polo would be a perfect fit for the Bristol Farm. “People love to come out and watch the horses, and it fits with our mission to hold farm-related events here on the property,” she said. So she reached out to Bristol resident Siobahn Wahlberg, a longtime friend whose husband Lars plays with Newport Polo.

“We spoke to some of the players in Newport, and they were very willing to come out on Saturday mornings to play,” Ms. Wahlberg said. “There are actually a fair number of pickup matches around the area, and there’s another polo field in Tiverton. Everyone knows about Newport because it has become such a big spectator event, but people who love to ride and play polo enjoy the chance for a pick-up match.”

The matches at Mount Hope Farm will be held Saturday mornings, weather permitting, through September. While there is no set schedule, last Saturday players were tacking their horses up around 10 a.m. in the South Field, which is the field just south of where the Farmers Market is held, along Metacom Avenue.

These matches are informal, there is no admission fee charged, and Ms. Wahlberg suggests people bring a lawn chair to the market and stay to enjoy the match. Both Ms. Wahlberg and Ms. Macdonald hope the matches are a popular addition to the farm’s slate of events and that they can resume them again in the spring.

“We’re hoping it is a big success and they will be going full-fledged in the spring,” said Ms. Macdonald. “We’re really thrilled to bring polo to Mount Hope Farm.”

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