Oct 31, 2023 5:45 PM
Peter Poor has been involved in the sport for as long as he can remember. A few decades after a mallet was first put in his hand, he established a polo school to teach others, something he continues to this day. A desire to give back led him to get involved with the USPA leadership, where he served for many years.
After World War I, Poor’s grandfather had built a polo club in Danvers, Massachusetts, for his friends and three sons, including Poor’s father, to play polo. His father went on to build an arena and helped renovate the grass fields that had fallen into rough shape at Myopia Polo Club (South Hamilton, Massachusetts), helping reignite the club after World War II.
Poor first started playing polo at just 6 years old, but says his initial introduction did not leave him wanting more thanks to a fat, unruly pony. “It ran away with me a couple of times until I wouldn’t ride anymore, so [my dad] got me an older polo pony,” Poor recalled. “I learned to ride and loved the horse and got a lot of confidence.”
“I never knew much about the USPA other than I paid some dues each year, and I thought since it had been something I had been involved with all my life, I should be contributing.” – Peter Poor on the decision to get involved with USPA leadership.
Poor went on to play and learn the game from his father but sadly, just four years later, Poor’s father died. Shortly after, 7-goaler Cyril Harrison, a renowned player and instructor, was hired. “He came up and whipped everybody into shape. […] I was able to join all the men on Saturday mornings when he gave his clinics, and he stayed for the whole summer,” Poor said.
In another tragic turn of events for this young boy, his father’s best friend died the following year. Fortunately, Harrison was there to offer support. “Cyril was an unbelievable teacher and an unbelievable man. For a couple of years, he took me under his wing,” Poor said. “He had as much influence as my dad did for those four years that I had with him. So, I fell in love with polo and with seeing it grow and trying to talk people into playing.”
Despite the losses at such a young age, Poor said the polo people he met and grew up with made the difference. “It was great growing up. It was a great experience with all the people I met,” Poor said. “I mean, where would I have met Adie von Gontard, George Haas, Butch Butterworth or those people that were my friends all my life?”
Poor eventually started an ambulance company in Massachusetts and ran that for 25 years. When it went out of business, Poor had to find a way to support his polo. In 1983, he started his polo school, Stage Hill Polo, which he has been running ever since. Poor said he has introduced countless people to the sport, and his students, including USPA Treasurer Steve Rudolph, Myopia manager April Clark, Newport Polo’s (New Port, Rhode Island) Dan Keating, Dave Strauss and others, have gone on to play at many of the clubs throughout the Northeast. He says he also taught several celebrities that came to the club for benefit matches, as well as actor Steve McQueen when “The Thomas Crown Affair” was filmed at Myopia.
Poor’s sister Margaret played and he always encouraged other women to learn the sport and compete. That led to many women taking lessons and eventually joining the local clubs. Poor’s daughters Alyson and Amanda actively play and teach and Jennifer serves as executive director of the Polo Training Foundation. Alyson Poor runs the Stage Hill Polo School in Florida in the winters and Amanda Poor, with Peter Poor’s help, runs the school in Newbury, Massachusetts in the summers.
Throughout the years, while Poor was teaching others about the sport, he was actively playing at Myopia as well. He counted wins in the 12-goal Inter-Circuit as well as the National Sherman Memorial. He also played at Gulfstream Polo Club (now defunct) in Florida in the winters.
“Don Little was the president of the USPA and organized some of the best polo we’ve ever had in Myopia. We had the East Coast Open. We’d have 12 to 14 teams at the 20-goal level,” Poor said, “Can you imagine bringing in that many horses and where to put them? And we’d have 12 teams in the 12-goal level right afterwards.[…] The parties and the friendships and the polo was really great. [There were] people I never would have met from all over the world. I think every high-goal Argentine in that era played at Myopia at one time or another and certainly all the pros from this country."
Poor competed in the East Coast Open nearly every year, along with 6-, 8- and 12-goal tournaments. He played both outdoors and in the arena. Little’s son, Donald “Doo” Little, who was a friend of Poor’s, was the New England circuit governor at the time. They helped get Poor involved in the USPA.
“I never knew much about the USPA other than I paid some dues each year, and I thought since it had been something I had been involved with all my life, I should be contributing, Poor explained. Poor was elected Circuit Governor, serving from 2002 to 2019, and before long was chair of the Nominating and Tournament Committees.“[That] really pushed me right into high gear immediately, no messing around. I can say I followed up on my calls consistently and did visit the clubs, especially if there was a problem,” Poor said. “It’s been a few years since I [served] and I do miss it. It gets in your blood after all those years. […] It was a good part of my life.”
“It’s been a few years since I [served] and I do miss it. It gets in your blood after all those years. […] It was a good part of my life.” – Peter Poor reflects on his time serving in USPA leadership
Poor said during those years he helped expand what at the time was Polo Properties, the USPA’s brand licensing business that continues to fund the Association and its many programs, including interscholastic and intercollegiate, umpiring and polo development. At one point he was set to take over as USPA executive director. The USPA headquarters was in Kentucky at the time, but health problems required him to stay closer to home, so Poor declined the offer. Since then, he has had two open heart surgeries.
Unfortunately, Poor’s health has continued to worsen. He was recently diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and the only treatment in the absence of a kidney transplant is dialysis, which he calls hell on wheels. “It keeps you alive and feeling good, but there is no future,” he explained. “It just takes over your life.” Poor is currently on a waiting list to receive a donor kidney through Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, but the wait list is long. Anyone interested in learning what is involved in being a kidney donor should contact Peter or go to Lahey.org.
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