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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.