One of our best suggestions for a fun, outdoor family event this summer is polo. Just fill up the picnic basket, pack up the kids and drive over to the Twin City Polo Club on Turner Road near Maple Plain (just a quick drive from Lake Minnetonka). Do you think the crowd watching a polo match is likely to be men in white linen pants and ladies in wide-brimmed straw hats, daintily nibbling on strawberries? Well, Mimi Alworth, a lifelong member of the club, wants you to take a look for yourself.
“It’s a super family-friendly thing to do,” Alworth says. “We love it when people come to tailgate and watch.”
In reality, the events are casual. Wear comfy clothing and bring down-to-earth snacks (or munch on something from one of the food trucks often in attendance). But being family-friendly is more than just a spectator sport for the club. Alworth is the third generation of her family to be an active member. Her brother and sister are also involved. “I’m sure I was on a horse for the first time before I was a year old,” Alworth says. “It’s something my family has always done.”
There are four or five tournaments a year at the Twin City Polo Club. There are special youth tournaments and a Fourth of July tournament. The first Sunday in August is always the Polo Classic, and the Binger Cup is the third weekend in August. The Binger Cup is a Midwest-wide teen competition.
The Central Circuit Women’s Challenge will be held this year July 12-14, and the particularly fun, family-centered event is a fundraiser for the Medina-based group We Can Ride. We Can Ride works with individuals with disabilities or special needs to offer equine-assisted activities and therapy.
Mary Mitten is the executive director of We Can Ride, and she says it’s good for outreach and fundraising. “The Twin City Polo Club has given us the opportunity to tell the community about our mission and, of course, bring in very much needed financial support,” Mitten says. “Every year, we have to fundraise for 70-75 percent of our program budget in order to keep client fees affordable.”
Last year, the women’s tournament raised $5,500 and this year the target is to nearly double that and raise $10,000. Mitten says that in addition to this event, the club and the Alworth family have been very supportive of her organization.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Women’s Challenge, or any of the other tournaments, you’ll find the most up-to-date information on the club’s Facebook page.
If you don’t come from a polo-playing family and don’t know anything about polo, don’t worry. Mimi Alworth says it’s just “hockey on horses.” But here are a few of the basics, courtesy of the United States Polo Association: The field is as big as nine football fields (300 yards by 160 yards); there are four horses and riders on each team, and two mounted officials. A defender can’t ride across the invisible line the ball is traveling along once it is hit, but a defender’s horse can bump an offensive player’s horse to drive it off the line—and get a better angle on the ball. A defender can strike an offensive player’s mallet to stop that player from striking the ball. It’s very fast and very physical. If you think about the speed and physical contact of a hockey game and then imagine all that happening on thousand-pound horses…that gives you an idea of what you can expect.