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Car Show and Horsepower at the San Diego Polo Club


I have lived in San Diego County since 1984. In that time I have frequently driven by the polo fields. Yet it took a car show for me to drive through the entrance gate. So, why should this interest you?

Well, if you’re like I used to be and you’ve driven by the polo fields too, then you might have thought the polo fields were part of an exclusive club for San Diego’s wealthiest residents. Surely this was not a place for you to go, right? Wrong.

For me the revelation about the San Diego Polo Club began with an invitation to attend a car show there. Fair enough, lots of places host special car shows on occasion. The San Diego Polo Club has plenty of grass, so it seemed to be ideally suited to a car show on the green. Since I had never been there before, I saw this as a good excuse to check them out.

Plymouth Superbird

Wow, I saw and enjoyed the horsepower alright, but it was not really what I was expecting. Please read on...

For starters, the San Diego Polo Club is truly OPEN TO THE PUBLIC on Sundays. Make no mistake, you, your family, and friends will be welcomed here. But what if you are not a horse person?

Despite the fact that I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – home of the world famous Calgary Stampede, I am definitely not a horse person. I don’t even particularly enjoy going to the horse races at Del Mar (blasphemy, I know). Horses are tall and, at least in my mind, somewhat uncontrollable – as compared to the horsepower of the automotive kind. I don’t like horsepower when its source exhibits a mind of its own, contrary to what I have in mind. That sentiment stemmed from a rather unpleasant experience I had back in Alberta.

I had been a guest of a family that had a cabin on an acreage in the country. They had horses, and invited me to join them for a ride. Well, being young and foolish, I agreed. I had never been on a horse in the open country so I did not know what I could be getting myself into.

It started off just fine. We plodded along out of the stable area and headed towards the trails. We were on a country road paralleling a wooded area (filled with poplar trees, as I recall), and I was bringing up the rear. We approached what I knew to be a “Texas gate.” Especially in Alberta, these were common on country roads. Consisting of a few evenly spaced, parallel metal bars set at ground level above a shallow pit, animals like cows did not try to cross over them. This was an ideal way to keep animals from wandering out of their fenced pastures along roads.

Horses, of course, are arguably smarter than cattle, so they learn how to step on the rails, instead of getting trapped in the spaces between them. They are not afraid of “Texas gates.” Uh-huh, sure.

One by one, everyone’s horse in front of mine walked calmly over the “Texas gate” and onwards, along the road. My horse was the last to try to do so. However, instead of obediently following his friends over the gate, my horse decided to stop. The riders up ahead did not notice, so they kept on going.

Remember what I told you about horsepower with a mind of its own? As a now experienced horseman of many minutes, I was determined to show my horse who was the boss and then catch back up to the other riders. I started kicking him lightly in the ribs – you know, like they do on those old Westerns on TV. However, my horse stubbornly refused to move. I responded by kicking him harder. That was a very bad decision. Oh, my horse moved alright, and quickly too. The problem is, he didn’t move over the gate. No, he reared up, bolted to one side and proceeded to charge at full gallop through the woods. I thought I was going to die. To this day, I remember ducking down and hanging on for dear life, hoping against hope that my horse would not trip over a fallen branch or step into a gopher hole and come crashing down on top of me. Luckily I lived to tell this tale. I was determined to never, ever ride a horse again.

Action at the San Diego Polo Club

Fast forward to the San Diego polo fields and some of my least favorite animals – horses. Perhaps because of the fact that I was so intimidated by one of these heavy, powerful animals, I was especially fascinated to watch them playing polo. Yes, they were not simply passive participants in the game, like a car would have been in similar circumstances. After talking with several people who are familiar with polo, and observing it for myself, it became crystal clear that the horses are really into this game. A smart, athletic, agile horse can make a huge difference on the polo field. What a rush of excitement, as the horses and their riders charged back and forth down the field, checked up abruptly, and wheeled to the left and to the right. Polo is really exciting to watch. You don’t have to be a horse rider to enjoy it. It is sort of like watching car races but with an added element of excitement – the mounts have minds of their own.

Oh yes, and there was a car show there too.

For the Sunday games, the San Diego Polo Club is open to the public. Here is a very simplified overview of the game. Each of the seven-minute periods of play is called a “Chukker.” Two teams of four players each take to the field. Fresh horses stand by for relief, as needed. The object is for the players to use their mallets to knock a ball between the goalposts at either end of the field.

Catered lunch buffet

They really do want you to check them out, so in addition to the spectacle of polo, they have arranged a summer schedule full of family-oriented activities in conjunction with the polo matches. Available food choices range from items at the concession stand to a catered buffet lunch. There are zebras and miniature horses for the kids, parties, music, and plenty of grassy space to spread out and enjoy the afternoons – and, if horses do not intimidate you, they even offer a free beginner polo lesson to riders 16 years of age and older. No previous riding experience is required.

Attendance is not expensive. On Sundays, which are open to the public, General Admission is only $5 per person, with free admission for children under 12. At $5, parking costs less than at the nearby Del Mar Fairgrounds. What a deal!

Live music

After the games on the day that I went, they had live music afterwards. I stayed, relaxed, and enjoyed that, too.

Game times on most Sundays through September are 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. For more information, you can phone them at (858) 481-9217. For a detailed schedule – including Sunday games, which are open to the public, and to learn about the polo school, visit them on the web at The San Diego Polo Club fields are located just a little bit east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds off of Via de la Valle, at 14555 El Camino Real in Rancho Santa Fe.

Divot stomp

One last thing. Be sure to participate in the divot stomp. This is where everyone is encouraged to walk out onto the field at half time during the 3 p.m. game and stomp down the grass divots kicked up by the horses. Little kids really get into this, but so do adults. Think of it as polo’s equivalent to the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games, except that instead of stretching and singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” you’ll actually be doing something that helps the game play. While you’re getting a little bit of exercise and socializing, you’ll also be helping to maintain the field.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #152r1 AutoMatters

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