Polo in the Park helps to ‘stirrup’ excitement at Wesley Clover Parks

4th annual Ottawa charity polo match benefits Wounded Warriors and Rotary Club community projects

Polo fans gathered for a nail-biter of a charity match that saw the women take a whack at trying to beat the men during Saturday's 4th annual Polo in the Park.

The sight of the players galloping around the arena on horses was the main attraction at the all-day, event-packed fundraiser. It was held at the equestrian centre at Wesley Clover Parks, a 500-acre, four-season outdoor recreation area located on Corkstown Road in the city’s west end.

Polo in the Park
Polo in the Park 2018.

The park has been partnering up with the Rotary Club of Ottawa South and the Ottawa Polo Club each summer to raise funds for good causes, such as the national mental health charity Wounded Warriors Canada and the Rotary Club's community projects.

On hand were returning event chair Monique Warrack and honorary chair Karen Sparks, who, besides being a mother of three young children, is also executive director of Wesley Clover Parks, a director with Equestrian Canada, and founding member of the Wesley Clover Foundation, a philanthropic corporation founded by her father, tech giant Terry Matthews.

Paul Chiarelli, who's the president of Matthews' private, global investment management firm and holding company, Wesley Clover International Corporation, was among the attendees.

Argentina’s ambassador to Canada, Eugenio Maria Curia, did the honour of tossing the ceremonial ball to start the first chukker, or playing period. Polo, which involves two teams of mallet-wielding players trying to score goals, is one of Argentina's most popular sports.

Polo in the Park
From left, Monique Warrack and Karen Sparks at Polo in the Park, held at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Polo in the Park
Paul Chiarelli with his wife, Lisa, at Polo in the Park, held at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Polo in the Park
From left, Tracy Howard seen with Argentinian Ambassador Eugenio Maria Curia and Karen Sparks, in the arena at the start of the polo match held during Polo in the Park, at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The score remained very close, with the two teams often tied or apart by only one goal. The women, who were clearly the underdogs but also the fan favourite, ended up losing 12-10. The teams were sponsored by the Ottawa Business Journal and the Three Wild Women fashion boutique.

The gals did have the option of using a polo handicap system to ensure that the game was fair. They declined.

“Technically, we could have started with points on the scoreboard,” polo player Anne Marie LeBrun told OBJ.social. “We chose not to.

“The ladies came out and rallied really well and scored lots of goals,” added LeBrun, who was proud with how they performed.

Also playing was her husband, Jeremy Monette, who’s a director with the Ottawa Polo Club and, like LeBrun, has a life-long love of horses. The couple runs Field Day Farm, a semi-private stable located just outside of Richmond. They're also both school teachers.

The annual event has become a great way to promote the less-known sport of polo.

“It’s a hard sport to promote because it’s so gruelling and time-consuming but we’re passionate about it. It fun. It’s addictive,” said LeBrun.

Polo in the Park
Anne Marie LeBrun and her husband, Jeremy Monette, along with Oro, were back to play in a charity polo match during this year's Polo in the Park, held Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

First-time spectator Daniel Fernandes was impressed by the mixed game. From what he could see, the sport offered a level playing field that relied less on human size and strength and more on the performance of the horse, known as a "polo pony," and the players' technique.

“It doesn’t matter what sex you are, you have the ability to compete and to win,” said the Ottawa commercial real estate lawyer, who told OBJ.social that he would “definitely” attend again.

Polo in the Park
From left, Daniel Fernandes and his wife, lawyer Sandra Guttman, with Rocco Crea and his wife, Silvana Crea, at Polo in the Park, held at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ian Sterling, president of Doherty & Associates Investment Counsel, was one of the returning attendees. He told OBJ.social he likes the event for its uniqueness.

"It's so different from all the other events in town," he said.

Sterling previously had the opportunity to give the sport of polo a try. It was challenging, he acknowledged.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit down for two weeks after,” he said with a laugh. “It’s like hockey on a horse.”

Polo in the Park
Tanya and Ian Sterling at Polo in the Park, held at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Polo in the Park offered plenty of activities for kids, along with a Capital Cowgirls’ musical ride, a dog demo, a fashion show and a hat parade that saw judges choose their favourites (Sterling’s wife, Tanya, was one of the winners for her handmade polo-themed fascinator).

As well, there was a VIP tent where guests could eat, drink and stay cool on a beautiful summer day.

Wesley Clover Parks is also hosting the Ottawa National Horse Show from July 11 to 15 and the Ottawa International Horse Show from July 18 to 22.

Polo in the Park
From left, Lesley Baird with Ann Matthews in the VIP tent at Polo in the Park, held at Wesley Clover Parks on Saturday, July 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
polo
Tara Beechey, senior manager of events with the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, with her daughters, Trixie Redican, five, and Felicia Redican, seven, both of whom made their own fascinators for Polo in the Park. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Polo in the Park
The Polo in the Park hat contest included a category for children. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca