Jun 14, 2021 4:26 PM
Hidden away in a lush forest with an arena positioned on a ridge overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains, it’s clear the spectacular natural landscape inspired the naming of Mountain View Polo Club (Charles Town, West Virginia). As the only USPA Member Club in West Virginia, Mountain View’s primary focus is creating and developing low-goal players with affordability in mind, building a solid foundation in the arena utilizing intercollegiate/interscholastic (I/I) methods of teaching. Located just an hour outside of the nation’s capital of Washington D.C. in the Eastern corner of the state, Mountain View invites its members and students to escape bustling city life and enjoy polo in a safe and inclusive environment.
“Everything here was built by Hugo [Pasten] and myself so it’s really special for us to have this club because we really worked for it.” – Dr. Laura Goddard
Founded in 2010 and officially becoming a USPA Member Club in 2012, Mountain View Polo Club was built completely from the ground up by I/I alumna (1994 to 1997) Dr. Laura Goddard and Hugo Pasten, establishing a new polo school and training lesson horses with their experience from Capitol Polo Club (now known as Congressional Polo Club). “We bought and trained all the lesson horses ourselves because we couldn’t afford to buy made polo ponies,” Goddard said. First learning to play at Cornell University while studying entomology, Goddard continued at the University of California, Davis, helping to run and coach the existing polo club through six years of graduate school. “After graduation I still wanted to play but I was a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health [Bethesda, Maryland] and the only way I could afford it was to teach in exchange to play,” Goddard said. “I set up a polo school with then Fifth Chukker Polo Club [which became Capitol Polo Club] and gained a lot of students in Poolesville, Maryland, over six years.”
Searching for a spacious and affordable farm to board her string, Goddard took advantage of a buyer’s market in 2010 and purchased a foreclosed property that would become her own Mountain View Polo Club. Featuring a house on property built in the early 1800’s, the club pays homage to the original farm’s name, Mountain View Farm, painted on the wall in the basement. “It was a lot of work and renovations to make the farm usable, but it had two barns and all the infrastructure was already there,” Goddard revealed. “I couldn’t see what was on the land because the grass was so overgrown, but I found out afterwards there was an arena on top of the ridge which I just needed to extend. It has the best view on the property.” Having the flexibility of working from home full-time as a patent examiner, Goddard runs the polo school on nights and weekends around her schedule while her fiancé Pasten manages the farm and keeps the horses fit. “A lot of my students from Maryland followed me out here,” Goddard said. “They’re commuting in from D.C. and Maryland to continue playing with our club.”
Situated in a rural, residential area, Mountain View Polo Club’s targeted mission is to introduce and generate new polo players, with a strong emphasis on teaching and producing technically correct riders. “We teach students to play polo from the very beginning and we coach our practices,” Goddard explained. “We are able to create teaching moments through umpiring and calling fouls.” Drawing upon the skills-focused structure she was given while learning to play through the I/I program, Goddard has in turn transferred these elements into her lesson program. “I/I players are typically cleaner players because they know the rules and they are great at team plays,” Goddard commented. “I think the overall quality of polo that comes out of the I/I program is better so I'm trying to pass that on to the public.” Intentionally trying to make the game of polo accessible to everyone, Goddard’s affordable prices have allowed the club to attract new players from a variety of backgrounds. “When you’re out in the arena it doesn’t matter where you came from or what you do during the day, everybody’s equal when they get on the horse,” Goddard emphasized. “We have everything from secretaries to screenwriters.”
Starting off in private lessons, new students are taught the foundational skills of riding and hitting the ball, gaining proficiency before graduating to C Flight where they play slow, heavily-coached games. “We really pride ourselves on teaching the skills and enforcing the rules,” Goddard said. Placing an emphasis on safety as well as having fun, Mountain View Polo Club makes sure each player is safe before allowing them to move on to faster flights. “Our focus is really to enjoy the game and play safely,” Goddard said. “Also everyone is very kind and courteous and plays with great sportsmanship which we encourage. There’s a genuine camaraderie and we have a really great string of safe lesson horses that make it enjoyable for everyone to keep coming back.” In addition to running all aspects of the club, Goddard and Pasten also train and sell Quarter horse polo ponies as demand for horses has increased.
Featuring weekly practices and skill-specific clinics, Mountain View Polo Club’s schedule runs from April through November, highlighted by two annual USPA tournaments: the 2- to 4-goal Karen Carra Memorial Women’s Arena tournament in September and 0- to 2-goal Paigahs Seahorse Cup in October. Aside from flight practices held Thursdays and weekends, Mountain View Polo Club members also have the opportunity to travel for interclub mixer tournaments at nearby clubs such as Seneca Polo Club (Poolesville, Maryland) and Congressional Polo Club. “We go to Seneca quite often and play A, B and C Flight tournaments so any of our students can compete against different people no matter what level,” Goddard said. Maintaining a steady stream of players with 25 current members, Mountain View was among the clubs who benefitted from an influx of new students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “2020 was one of our best years ever for lessons because everyone was looking for an activity to do outdoors and our business really exploded,” Goddard revealed. “At first we contemplated shutting down because we were limited on group activities, but I’m really glad the USPA stepped up to help with the USPA COVID-19 Relief Package.”
Integral to Mountain View Polo Club’s philosophy on instruction, two types of clinics are held throughout the season for beginner and more advanced students. “In the beginner clinic students learn the rules and how to hit the ball, then we scrimmage at a walk,” Goddard explained. “In the Polo Pro clinics we do drills and focus on improving one area at a time, so for example in the effective riding for polo clinic we just worked on stopping, how to use your seat to ride, roll backs and how to ride off an opponent.” Focusing on one specific skill at a time, such as the offside swing clinic scheduled for the end of June, the Polo Pro clinics allow players to hone and perfect skills individually. Another important component are slow-motion videos recorded of each student, giving them the opportunity to watch themselves and receive feedback. “I take videos of everybody so they can see how they look when riding and hitting,” she said. “At the end we do an analysis of every video and watch it on a big screen TV.” Integrating drill team warmups into her riding clinics, Goddard often draws from helpful activities she participated in herself during practices at Cornell.
Successfully growing their community over the last decade, Mountain View Polo Club’s effective methods and supportive atmosphere is leading them to expand, becoming both an arena and outdoor club in 2022. “We’re putting in a field as we speak,” Goddard announced. “The Polo Development Initiative paid for us to clear the field last year and they are helping us renovate our arena this winter with all new boards.” Starting a polo club from nothing, Goddard and Pasten’s hard work has paid off as they get to share the sport they love. “Everything here was built by Hugo [Pasten] and I so it’s really special for us to have this club because we really worked for it,” Goddard remarked. Nestled high in the mountains just above the Shenandoah River, Mountain View Polo Club beckons players of any age or stage to come experience the exhilaration of polo.
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