May 18, 2020 8:41 PM
Canceling the final Texas Arena League (TAL) event which was slated to take place at the Two Wishes Polo Club (Lockhart, Texas), COVID-19 put a halt to the series. After taking a poll of the players and considering the uncertainty ahead, the TAL Committee decided to determine the winning teams and players for the 2020 Texas Arena League by the points and standings that had been earned in the first three events. “With the support of our amazing sponsors, TAL is the Oprah Winfrey of polo events,” Governor-at-Large Robin Sanchez said. “It was a shame that the final event and the awards party were not able to happen this year. The camaraderie that happens outside of the arena is part of what makes Texas Arena League such an incredible event.” As the Governor of Texas has begun opening up the state, prize delivery has been the latest effort with most awards delivered to North Texas, the Austin area, San Antonio and West Texas.
Texas Arena League teams are awarded points for each game they play based on wins, losses and ties. Players on each team also receive individual points as well as additional points for Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Sportsmanship wins. An added bonus, TAL participants also receive points toward the National Arena Amateur Cup (NAAC) which will be held at the Orange County Polo Club in Silverado, California.
Most Valuable Player is awarded at each game in the league and new 2020 sponsors included the Galvin Agency and American National Insurance. Jackrabbit Tack and Consignment sponsored the High Point Individual in each division with a pair of engraved Bombers spurs. Casablanca Polo sponsored the High Point Overall with a prize package of knee guards, elbow guards and gloves. In both the 0- to 3-goal and 3- to 6-goal flights, the winning team took home the coveted Molly’s Custom Silver belt buckles. Second place teams received a ground cloth with a TAL logo from Ronmar and The Tackeria. Finally, third place teams received custom silver key chains from Molly’s Custom Silver, which were a smaller version of the winners’ buckle.
0- to 3-Goal Team Results:
First Place – Polo InterActive (Jose Velez, James Glew, Wyatt Myr)
Second Place – Notorious P.O.N.Y. (Javier Insua, Zoe Lehmer, Devan Groves Layton, Jessica Mignone)
Third Place – Bar-Spur (Mark Osburn, Ryan Owen, Brady Williams)
The 0- to 3-Goal Galvin Agency Most Valuable Player was awarded to Megan Rahlfs.
"I am honored that I was chosen for MVP out of so many talented players!” Rahlfs said. “My skills in the arena have improved a lot over the last four years playing with Southern Methodist University (SMU) and I’m glad I was able to showcase them during the Texas Arena League. I also attribute my success in the tournament to the fantastic horses provided to me by Nacho Estrada. Having a solid and talented string underneath me definitely boosted my game and confidence to make plays.”
The 0- to 3-Goal Jackrabbit Tack High Point Individual was awarded to James Glew.
The United States Polo Association (USPA) Armed Forces Committee recognized the High Point Military and military family members with saddle pads, while USPA Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) awarded the High Point I/I players with overgirths.
The High Point Overall Military Player was awarded to Karl Hilberg, a retired U.S. Navy Commander.
The 0- to 3-Goal High Point Military was awarded to Chris Jones, a Staff Sergeant for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The High Point Overall Military Family Member was awarded to Wyatt Myr. Wyatt Myr’s father served in the U.S. Army in the Caisson Color Guard and one of the horses in his care was Blackjack, the riderless horse at John F. Kennedy's funeral.
The 0-to 3-Goal High Point Military Family Member was awarded to Javier Insua.
The 0- to 3-Goal High Point Intercollegiate/Interscholastic Player was awarded to Megan Rahlfs of Houston Girls Interscholastic and Southern Methodist University (SMU).
“Accepting the High Point I/I Player/Alumni Award means a lot to me,” Rahlfs said. “I have been playing I/I since I started polo and I’m very thankful to have been a part of the SMU polo team for the last four years, as well as the Houston Interscholastic team. With the Texas Arena League going on during the peak of my collegiate season this year, the TAL games and SMU practices complemented each other well to boost my game.”
3- to 6-Goal Team Results:
First Place – Williams Polo (Brady Williams, Mark Osburn, Wyatt Myr)
Second Place – Dallas Polo Club (Will Walton, Michael Farah, Wendy Stover)
Third Place – Legend’s Horse Ranch (Kim Buttram, Nacho Estrada, August Scherer)
The Casablanca Polo High Point Overall was awarded to Wyatt Myr.
“I had the opportunity to play on two great teams,” Myr said. “I'd like to thank my teammates for allowing me to lead teams in both flights. Both teams had good chemistry and made playing easy and fun. I’d also like to thank Casablanca Polo for the knee guards, elbow guards and gloves.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Galvin Agency Most Valuable Player was awarded to August Scherer.
The 3- to 6-Goal Jackrabbit Tack High Point Individual was awarded to Will Walton.
“Will [Walton] is an incredibly talented player,” said Walton’s teammate Wendy Stover. “He has the ability to get the most from his horses. He will go into plays covered by a very strong player, and I think, 'there’s no way he can win this one,' and then here he comes with the ball! He has tremendous awareness of the game and I hope to have many opportunities to play on his team in the future,” Stover continued.
The 3- to 6-Goal High Point Military was awarded to Rob Phipps, a Staff Sergeant for the U.S. Air Force.
“It was so great winning the Commander-in-Chief Cup in October then taking the same Air Force team to play in one of the most competitive and well-managed arena polo leagues anywhere in the country,” Phipps said. “The Texas Arena League has some of the very best polo teams with young talented players playing alongside some of the most respected, seasoned players. The strings of polo ponies rival some of the best in the country and the sportsmanship and camaraderie made it an amazing experience.”
The 3- to 6-Goal High Point Military Family Member was awarded to Will Walton. Will Walton’s great grandfather, Clifton Dale Massey, served in the U.S. Navy and his grandfather, Dr. Robert Walton, was in the British royal cavalry. "The Texas Arena League was a blast with tons of great polo and even better people, who were mounted on amazing horses,” Walton said. “The umpires were fantastic as well, every call was fair and true to the game. This tournament series is very competitive but a lot of fun and is well on its way to becoming one of the elite tournaments played here in the United States.”
The 3- to 6-Goal High Point Intercollegiate/Interscholastic Player was awarded to August Scherer of Culver Military Academies and Southern Methodist University.
“The 2020 TAL was another great success, compounding on the 2019 season with more team participation, friendly competition and local spectators,” Scherer said. “Texas Arena League is a good way to bring I/I alumni back into the sport.”
Texas Arena League awards Nutrena Best Playing Pony (BPP) honors at each game to recognize equine athletes. The Nutrena Best Playing Pony wins during regular league competition and BPP considerations during those games factor into the awards.
Equine Nutritionist Sharon Choney works for Cargill Nutrena and visits most Texas Arena League events. “Nutrena is honored to be part of the Texas Arena League BPP program,” Choney said. “Keeping the polo ponies in prime shape and peak performance starts with a great nutrition program. We are excited to help educate and provide well-researched products to keep these high-powered athletes healthy year round and playing at optimal performance.” Cargill sends equine nutritionists and Nutrena reps to Texas Arena League events for educational sessions.
TAL added another award in 2020 for Best Playing Thoroughbred. To be considered for the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TJCTIP) Best Playing Thoroughbred awards horses must be Jockey Club registered and have a TIP number which is attained online by using either the horses’ Jockey Club name or tattoo number. TJCTIP has other programs including its recreational riding program.
The 0- to 3-Goal Nutrena Best Playing Pony was awarded to Platinum, owned by Brady Williams.
“I was really excited for Platinum to win BPP because she played frequently for two chukkers during a game,” Williams said. “I put a lot of effort into my horses’ care trying to make sure they are playing the best that they can for each game.”
The 0- to 3-Goal TJCTIP Best Playing Thoroughbred was awarded to Demi, owned by Kelly Coldiron.
The 0- to 3-Goal Superior Equine Sports Massage Therapy Best String was owned by Wyatt Myr: Burgundy, Ichiban, Whiskey, Romeo and Foxy.
“After playing last year on borrowed horses, I was excited to play on my own string this year,” Myr said. “I'd like to thank James Glew for helping me prep my ponies and making them look their best during the tournament.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Nutrena Best Playing Pony was awarded to Nugget, owned by Trey Crea.
“Nugget was owned by Ursula Pari while we were playing in the Texas Arena League,” Crea said. “Nugget and I were working well together, so I have since purchased her.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program's Best Playing Thoroughbred was awarded to Wild, owned by Wendy Stover.
“I bought Wild after seeing photos online from Trista Reynolds in New York,” Stover said. “Wild was a well-bred, unbroken Thoroughbred when I bought her. She has always been kind and willing and is very quick for a 'chunky' girl. She is super consistent to play in any game, whether arena or grass. I trust her completely to make any play and she is very bold.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Superior Equine Sports Massage Therapy Best String was owned by Nacho Estrada: Kika, Zama, Frijolita, Panela, Gemma, Strega, Chartreuse, Mezcal, Muneca and Nirvana.
“I feel very happy and it is very rewarding to win Best String,” Estrada said. “My polo ponies are like my family, and I enjoy spending time training, caring and trying to bring the best out of them.”
Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program's Best Playing Thoroughbred Overall was awarded to Rocket, owned by Stephanie Massey.
Rocket, probably the most seasoned horse participating in TAL for the 2020 season, was formerly known in the thoroughbred racing industry as Moon Is Up. After a mere five starts, Rocket transitioned to a new career in polo. In 2009, Rocket was donated to the Texas A&M University women’s polo team by Katherine Campos. Rocket won the BPP award for the Central Interscholastic tournament in 2012 and was a part of numerous Best Playing String Awards during her stint at Texas A&M Polo. In 2012, Rocket was retired from I/I polo by Stephanie Massey Colburn. Now at the ripe old age of 27, Rocket continues to successfully compete as she was pulled out of the pasture to participate in the Texas Arena League.
In addition to recognizing exceptional horses, Texas Arena League awards exceptional horsemen and horsewomen with awards including Australian saddle pads from Jackrabbit Tack and photo books with images of Texas Arena League from David Murrell's Murrell Photo.
The 0- to 3-Goal Jackrabbit Tack Horsemanship Award was given to Stephanie Massey.
The 0- to 3-Goal Murrellphoto.com Best Presented was awarded to Brady Williams.
“The Best Presented season award is new this year to TAL, and I am honored to be the first recipient,” Williams said. “I take pride in my horse care, but this award means more than just having good horses. This means that throughout the season my team, clients and all the horses at my trailer were well put together and ready to play polo. It has been fun having the Murrells at the TAL events and the book they put together has some great photos!”
The 3- to 6-Goal Jackrabbit Tack Horsemanship Award was given to Wendy Stover.
"Ever since I was a little girl, horses have been my passion,” Stover said. “The very best part of playing polo is the enjoyment I get from my horses and I’m so proud of them!”
The 3- to 6-Goal Murrellphoto.com Best Presented was awarded to Elite Motion & Performance.
The Murrellphoto.com Overall Best Presented was awarded to Horsegate.
Part of what makes Texas Arena League appealing to so many players is the emphasis on sportsmanship, teamwork and camaraderie. While most valuable players, winning players and teams are awarded, sportsmanship carries a significant value to all the participants and breeds goodwill amongst the teams and players. In 2020, the sportsmanship winners and runners-up were given a U.S. Polo Assn. item as a prize at each game with the final awards being Catena watches. This year, Catena provided the Classic Men’s Catena Swiss-made watch, which featured a sapphire crystal dial with a stainless steel gold case; the Ladies Stirrup Catena watch featured a white mother of pearl dial with diamonds in the center and a stainless steel case.
In addition to the Catena Sportsmanship awards, Royal B Threads sponsored the Best Team Player Award and Pro Chukker sponsored the Players’ Choice Competitor Award. Players’ Choice Competitor is voted on by the participants in TAL for the player who best represents Texas Arena League through competitive play, sportsmanship and commitment, both inside and outside of the arena. In 2020, TAL added a Most Improved Award, suggested by Amanda Massey at the end of 2019 TAL and sponsored by Elite Motion & Performance.
The Pro Chukker Players’ Choice Competitor Award was given to Jack Crea.
The 0- to 3-Goal Catena Sportsmanship Award was presented to Karl Hilberg.
The 0- to 3-Goal Catena Sportsmanship Runner-Up was awarded to Oscar Bermudez Jr.
“Sportsmanship is one of the most important and undervalued aspects of any sport,” Hilberg said. “The Texas Arena League is working on promoting sportsmanship and, with Catena as our sponsor, it is working.”
The 0- to 3-Goal Royal B Threads Best Team Player was awarded to Mark Osburn.
“It has been a lot of fun playing with Mark [Osburn] the last two seasons in TAL,” teammate Brady Williams said. “He has improved a lot since his return to polo in 2018. He started out leasing horses from me last year during the 2019 season and now owns his own three-horse string. He can take direction and contributes to the team in many ways. He will ask for a pass if he knows he is open but is also not afraid to step up and play defense if the situation calls for it. We have had some wins and some losses together, but he keeps his head up and is always ready for the next game.”
The 0- to 3-Goal Elite Motion & Performance Most Improved was awarded to Ryan Owen.
“After stepping away from polo for 10 years from the time I played at Texas Tech Polo Club, Texas Arena League is a fun and affordable way to get back in the game of polo,” Owen said. “Having the opportunity to play at such great facilities all over the state along with great competition and professional umpires, has helped make vast improvements in my game. I would recommend competing in Texas Arena League to anyone looking to get back into the sport of polo or even beginners.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Catena Sportsmanship Runner-Up was awarded to Cody Goetz.
The 3- to 6-Goal Catena Sportsmanship was awarded to Kelly Coldiron.
“I believe that with such a large number of players, it’s even more important to be generous and supportive,” Coldiron said. “Each year at TAL, I play against some people that I know and often against people I do not know. I feel it is even more important for the encouragement of others in polo in a group like this. In particular, low-goal polo is a recreational sport for many and it goes much further to have a good attitude.”
The 3- to 6-Goal Royal B Threads Best Team Player was awarded to Ariel Mancebo.
The 3- to 6-Goal Elite Motion & Performance Most Improved was awarded to Dani Gibson.
TAL also hosted C-Flight beginner games at all events with players of all ages and from as far away as Oklahoma. Many players came from the polo schools of the host clubs. For many C-Flight players, this was their first competitive polo experience. Texas Arena League looks forward to seeing these players move up in the ranks of TAL in the years to come.
The Top Team was Polo Girls: Caroline Woodman, Kitana St Cyr, Katerina Cortova.
The Elite Motion & Performance Most Improved was awarded to Katerina Kortova.
The Galvin Agency Most Valuable Player was awarded to Kitana St Cyr.
Spectators vote on social media for their favorite player during Texas Arena League and that person wins the #FanFavorite for the event. 2020 winners were Megan Rahlfs, Ryan Owen and Wendy Stover. TAL players also vote for Best Host Club and Legend’s Horse Ranch took the honors and banner from Royal B Threads to hang in the arena.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More