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FAMILY TIES AND PRIDE AT POWAY POLO CLUB – AN ARTICLE BY CLICKPOLOUSA

Aug 02, 2022 4:34 PM

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Ka Mana Loa's Abby Purdy competing in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL) at Poway Polo Club in Poway, California. ©Jim Bremner
Ka Mana Loa's Abby Purdy competing in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL) at Poway Polo Club in Poway, California. ©Jim Bremner

Poway Polo Club was established in 1990 and was started by Polo Hall of Fame Iglehart Award Winner Russell Sheldon and his family. Originally, the club was known for offering cowboy polo, a variation of polo where teams are made up of five players, western tack is used, the playing field is a rodeo arena or enclosed dirt area, the ball is a large rubber medicine ball and the mallets are long fiberglass shafts with hard rubber heads.

Still located just outside of San Diego, California, Poway Polo Club is now an arena only club based out of the Poway Valley Riders Association (PVRA). PVRA is a multi-use facility with polo, Pony Club, hunter jumpers, rodeo and more.

Poway’s interscholastic and beginner programs have been a long-time commitment for the California club. Teaching horsemanship, sportsmanship and skill from the very first day, several of the club’s I/I players have gone on to continue in college programs at UC Davis (Davis, California), Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Oklahoma), Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colorado), Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon), University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia) and many other competitive polo schools.

Among the multi-generational families at Poway, Jared Sheldon and Shane Rice have reached 7 goals in the arena. ©Kaile Roos
Among the multi-generational families at Poway, Jared Sheldon and Shane Rice have reached 7 goals in the arena. ©Kaile Roos

Poway Polo has several multi-generation families that played or continue to play at the club, one of the most iconic being the family that started it all. The Sheldon family includes a long list of accomplished players, such as Russ Sheldon, his daughter Sherry Sheldon Gibson, Sherry’s children Shane and Danika Rice, Russ’ son Billy, Billy’s son Jared, and Russ’s grandchildren Charles and Catalina. Billy, Shane and Jared have all reached 7 goals in the arena. Other families with strong ties to the club include the Burch/Agee family, the Boggess family and the Schnoebelens.

Lakeside's Garrett Bankhead drives to goal in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL).  ©Jim Bremner
Lakeside's Garrett Bankhead drives to goal in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL). ©Jim Bremner

THE SEASON AT POWAY POLO CLUB

This year, Poway already held two USPA Circuit Arena Tournaments during the Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL), the -1 to 1-goal Pacific Coast Circuit Arena Constitution Cup and the 2- to 4-goal Pacific Coast Circuit General George S. Patton Jr. “Military tournaments are important to us because of all the military bases within San Diego County,” shared Sherry Sheldon Gibson, President of the club.

Poway also hosted their 7th Annual Russ Sheldon Memorial Arena Tournament. “Our Annual Russ Sheldon Tournament is always so fun because it [mixes] players.” One chukker could be -2-goal and the next chukker could be 6-goal. This year, the Russ Sheldon Tournament had twenty players and twelve running chukkers. “Russ, our founder, loved playing with everyone, [so] what better way to honor him [than this],” Sherry continued. Awards were given in the following categories: Best Long Shot, Best Neckshot, Best Goal, Best Defensive Play, Best Use of Electrical Tape and Best Decorated Helmet.

Lakeside's Kim Foy reaches for the shot ahead of Polodeo Ranch's Sherry Sheldon Gibson in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL). ©Jim Bremner
Lakeside's Kim Foy reaches for the shot ahead of Polodeo Ranch's Sherry Sheldon Gibson in the 2022 Pacific Coast Arena League (PCAL). ©Jim Bremner

SHERRY SHELDON GIBSON, FOLLOWING HER FATHER'S LEGACY

Sherry Sheldon Gibson, USPA member, proud coach of Poway's interscholastic team and daughter of Poway Polo Club founder Russ Sheldon has been an integral part of the polo community for over 20 years.

“Since I am a second generation player of a four generation family, I see the value of family in polo. Russ, Sherry, Shane, Danika, Billy and Jared would take three horse trailers and 25 horses every time we went to polo practice or tournaments. We all started playing cowboy polo before making the switch to English polo to cut down the long drives to cowboy polo tournaments. Hitting the ball and riding we already knew. It was just learning the rules and changing from neckshots all the time that we had to relearn. Thankfully, Vicky Owens took me under her wing, and I got a great base to move from 0 to 2 goals in the arena in one year,” Sherry noted.

Arena at Poway Polo Club. ©Poway Polo Club
Arena at Poway Polo Club. ©Poway Polo Club

Sherry has been a successful interscholastic team coach, with two National Championships, two National Runner-Up Championships and six Western Regional Championship teams over the course of her coaching career. An equestrian instructor for over 30 years in the disciplines of polo, general horsemanship and barrel racing, she has been and continues to be an intricate part of Poway Polo and the equestrian community.

“I continue to play, coach our I/I team, teach our school program and run the Poway Polo Club. Poway Polo is an affordable entry program into the world of polo. We promote family involvement and volunteerism to keep the club running. My hope is that Poway Polo will still be around for several more generations of the Sheldon family to continue the legacy that Russ Sheldon started.”

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