Adirondack Polo Club offers continuing tradition of premier sport

KEENE Polo. It's a sport that has been defined as the combination of hockey, horseback riding, golf and football with a taste of almost any other sport imaginable. The 2,500 year-old sport is one of the fastest, roughest, and most dangerous sports played today yet serves as an outlet for many of the stresses one may face on a daily basis. The sport is gaining increasing popularity, especially at venues such as The Adirondack Polo Club, nestled in the beauty of the Adirondack Park on Alstead Hill Lane. The club offers the ability to not only play the premier spectator sport, but to become part of the action as well. The sport is like a symphony as players on thoroughbred horses bump and jostle with each other like hockey on horseback, racing at top speeds down the field while striking a small white ball with the precision of an experienced golfer all while surrounded by breathtaking views of the Adirondack Mountains. The history of the club dates back to the 1970s, Joe-Pete Wilson and John Bougeois started the Stowe Polo Club in Stowe, Vt. Wilson came to the plate with knowledge of horses and Bougeois funded in to the game with both feet, coming together for a wealth of time and enthusiasm. Wilson eventually moved back to Lake Placid, where he carried on the tradition of playing, coaching, encouraging and recruiting. He built a field on his father's best cornfield after the farming had left Small Mountain Farms, now known as The Bark Eater Inn, located just outside the Olympic Village of Lake Placid. Wilson had made polo possible in the Adirondacks but The Adirondack Polo Club was formed to fulfill the dreams of four men. They envisioned a pristine green field, strong, muscular horses and the thrill of competition surrounded by the majestic Adirondack Mountains. With that, The Adirondack Polo Club was born in Keene at the historic Bark Eater Inn. For some time, only The Bark Eater Team, with a handful of players, played on the field that Wilson had created. As the popularity of the sport grew, more and more people became aware that great polo was able to be played right in their back yard. Few people could believe the sport was being played locally, one of whom was a prominent businessman, Lonnie R. Cross, who had played a little in the past. When he saw his first game, his enthusiasm boiled over. After watching an exciting game held as a fund raiser for a local charity, he was determined to try his hand at polo once again. His involvement helped create a concerted effort to expand the club and more actively solicit sponsors, new players and spectators. Currently, the field is now used by three different polo clubs The Bark Eater, The Lake Placid Club, and The Adirondack Club. The club currently boasts seven players and is currently recruiting to build their membership. Current members are Wilson, Cross, Sue Doyle, Gordon Costin, Chris Lukan, Jake Burns, and Edwardo Burns. With the tremendous growth the club has seen, Edwardo Burns of Argyle, has been brought aboard as club manager for the 2008 season. In what will be a highlight of the club's activities this year, a professional polo player will be involved with the Adirondack Polo club this summer. Sabastian Bonorino, a five-goal polo player from Argentina, will make his presence on the field this month, including at the first annual "Ride for Red." The event, to benefit the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign, will be held at the club next Sunday, July 13. Faith Osborne Long, the regional director of the American Heart Association, was interested in a creative way to raise money for organization. She was involved with the annual Laura's Bridal Make-A-Wish Bridal Expo, which Cross organizes, when she expressed the concern to him. Cross spoke of The Adirondack Polo Club and their efforts with the United Way to raise money for their chapters in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties. A polo match was exactly the unique fund-raising idea that peaked Osborne's interest. Besides polo, the afternoon-long event which begins at 1 p.m. will feature a petting zoo, a polo match for children, a halftime event of stomping of the divots, and, of course, heart healthy food catered by Town and Country Gourmet. After the game, members of the club will be available with their horses for questions that any new polo spectator may have. Admission to the event will be only $5 per person or $15 per carload. The Adirondack Polo Club is member of the United States Polo Organization and The Polo Training Association. The club and its members can be found published in the annual United States Polo Organization's Handicap Book, also known as "The Blue Book." This book contains all of the registered polo clubs, players and their ratings. The club offers lessons at any experience level for anyone interested in playing the sport. Nonplaying members may also be apart of the experience by helping with scoring, timing, and flagging. Membership dues begin at $250 for the year. Dues are based upon how many horses that are kept at The Bark Eater. If becoming a member is not possible, people are also encouraged to become a sponsor. The Adirondack Polo Club offers different levels of partnerships from as little as $150 to in excess of $10,000. Becoming a sponsor does have privileges such as VIP seating to all events and promotional opportunities. Practices are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m., weather permitting. Games are Saturdays and Sundays. The Adirondack Polo Club plays across the Northeast, including Saratoga Springs; Sugarbush, Vt.; Byfield, Mass., and Exeter, N.H. For more information about The Adirondack Polo Club or the upcoming Ride for Red polo match, contact the club at 572-9391 or visit the club's Web site, www.adirondackpolo.com.

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