Twenty-Twenty was a year like no other for many reasons including #covid19. We are so fortunate our sport is mainly played outdoors, and our equine teammates were not likely to be infected or spread the virus to humans. Given many other entertainment options were cancelled, we experienced increased demand for horse time. As a result, we had some incredible practices and matches as we advanced our skills, and deepened our bond as a team of humans and horses. We also were blessed to meet some amazing people who were curious about our non-mainstream sport, and open to new adventures including tailgating at polo. While we feared being shut down due to the uncertainty of everything "normal," we were able to employ one full-time assistant manager and two part-time employees through out our season.
Polo was booming a century ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 as well -- in part due to the reliance on horses critical to military operations. A quick Google search offers interesting finds such as this Vanity Fair article, Polo Players and the Army. Polo clubs in St. Louis and Kansas are referenced in the story. Polo was also played at the Fort Sill base in Oklahoma, and in Tulsa -- but we can't confirm the earliest dates. We still play in Tulsa today and across our United States Polo Association Great Plains Circuit, which includes Oklahoma City, and Wichita as well. A highlight of the 2020 season for our circuit was the addition of the Top Gun Tournament in Tulsa at the historic Oxley Polo Field at Mohawk Park. Sadly, Northwest Arkansas' famous Polo in the Ozarks charity match was postponed until 2021.
While our barn family thrived we did see a couple of Covid cases pop up among our group, but these individuals were tested quickly and isolated with no long-term side effects. There were other interruptions as well for our college-age players who had to navigate online, and in person learning. We also experienced a wet spring and a drier than average fall limiting our hay making to feed the horses. We get it, these so called inconveniences are really privileges. So, we say goodbye to 2020 with a huge sigh of relief, heartsick for those who were impacted by Covid more directly, and with a renewed appreciation of gratitude for each other on, and off the field.
(Hannah Banderob -- NWA Polo Club player and University of Arkansas student -- carries the U.S. Flag at the Top Gun Tournament opening ceremony October 2020. The event benefited military veterans and families at the Tulsa Polo Club. She is riding Karen Summer's horse Dakota, an AQHA gelding who often receives Best Playing Pony awards at matches.)