Calgary Polo Club aims to break into local sporting landscape
The Calgary Polo Club was established back in 1890, 83 years earlier than Spruce Meadows, and 22 years prior to the first Stampede Rodeo taking place in the city.
Yet the 200-acre club – which is located in De Winton, Alta., just the south of Calgary – doesn’t attract the crowds that other horse-related sports do.
This is all despite a very passionate membership of 30 locals, in addition to a dozen or so foreigners that make the trek up to Calgary in the summer to enjoy the amenities of the club.
Kyle Fargey, a professional polo player who runs a school at the club, grew up playing the game on his family’s acreage just outside of Winnipeg, Man.
“I would always play hockey in the winters, and polo through the summers,” said the 36-year-old. “There are a lot of similarities in the game as far as the physical nature of it and the man-on-man mentality.
“You get people with a hockey background and it certainly aids them in picking up the game quicker. “
“My sister and I sort of grew up playing it everyday,” Fargey said, referring to the polo field their father set up in the sheep field behind their house.
Rob Foster, who acts as the polo club’s treasurer, has been playing the game for five years after discovering the game working in South America.
“I didn’t grow up with an equestrian background,” he said. “I played soccer and hockey, but this is probably the biggest rush.”
Foster said that having a player like Fargey around, who is willing to work with those just learning the game, has significantly added value to the club.
“He brings that enthusiasm,” Foster said. “He’ll take guys out for what’s supposed to be an hour and he’ll be out there for an hour and a half, whatever it takes.
“He has just as much fun as the people in his lessons – it’s contagious.”
The game of polo carries an elitist stigma that both Fargey and Foster are very aware of.
“We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to come out and go through the school, and beyond that if they want to commit to being playing members,” Fargey said
Now with the option to lease horses every summer, the Calgary Polo Club is seeing increased interest.
“It used to be that you would have to have three, four, five or six horses to get going but that’s not the case anymore,” Fargey said.
“Within these last five years, our general membership has probably doubled. It’s certainly going in the right direction.”
A born and bred Calgarian, Anne Evamy started playing the game in the 80s and now plays in competitive tournaments every summer.
“Unfortunately not enough Calgarians know that it’s here,” she said. “Perhaps maybe more native Calgarians know because of the horse community and the way that Calgary was as a smaller city.
“I wish more people did know about it because I think they would find it quite fascinating especially if they are interested in horses and sport at speed.”
With yearly memberships going for $1,200, and horse leasing options available for anyone wanting to play, the sport, and the Calgary Polo Club in particular, is working very hard at shedding the negative connotations associated with it.
As Fargey states, “It’s something that everyone can try and it’s free to come watch.”