Philly’s urban park polo a rarity for the sport

A few days before the Classic begins it is sold out, from the $25 general admission to the VIP passes for $500. Disappointed people calling for tickets are being turned away. Rosser said that at least one person broke down in tears.

“They’re having a major FOMO [fear of missing out] because they didn’t get their tickets soon enough,” he said. “I imagine this event at some point becoming a multi-day event. I think people are really going to love what we’re going to do on Saturday.”

Those attendees will have a chance to see one of the main characters in “Crossing the Line”: Cholo, a dark bay thoroughbred that Rosser trained to play polo. Rosser credits Cholo for giving him responsibility and structure as a teenager.

Now nearly 20-years-old Cholo no longer plays polo, but rather gives short rides to kids.

“He’s not in the racecar business anymore,” said Work to Ride founder Lezlie Hiner. “He’s just chilling, loping around.”

Work to Ride founder Lezlie Hiner nuzzles Cholo, the horse featured prominently in Kareem Rosser’s book about his experience with the polo training program, “Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport that Changed their Lives Forever.” (Emma Lee/WHYY)

There are 36 horses cared for in the Chamounix Stables, of which six will play polo this weekend. Hiner showed off one of her favorites, a 16-year-old former thoroughbred racehorse named Edwin.

The horse goes by many names: Easy Eddie. Eddie Spaghetti.

Lezlie Hiner. founder and executive director of Work to Ride at Chamounix Stables, checks on Edwin, a polo pony she affectionately calls Eddie Spaghetti. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“Ed is primarily a polo pony, but also is quite good at jumpers,” said Hiner while petting Edwin’s nose. “He’s done quite a few of these shows. He’s also fox hunted. He’s one of those multi-discipline guys that we use for more than one activity.”

Hiner shows off another horse who will play this weekend, Cumbia, named after the traditional Colombian dance music.

“That’s what she does. Her feet are always moving,” she said. “She was aptly named.”

More horses are coming in from outside the city, some from as far as Colorado, to fill out the roster of 22 animals.

The polo match is a fundraising event for Work To Ride, which is planning a major development at the stables: a 35,000-square-foot, semi-enclosed horse arena for training and events. Hiner says the $10 million capital campaign is more than 80% complete. She expects to break ground next year.

Hiner says proceeds from the polo event will not go towards construction costs, but rather towards the cost of operating the facility. She expected her budget needs to grow as her facility expands.

Lezlie Hiner. Founder and Executive Director of the Work to Ride program at Chamounix Stables. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“Once the arena is built we’re going to need a serious bump in our operations revenue,” she said. “That’s the primary purpose for it. Another one is we’re just so super, super excited to be exposing the community at large in Philadelphia to polo. You’ve got kids of color playing. They’re going to be 80% of the players on the field on Saturday. That’s an anomaly.”

This year’s event is capped at 3,000 tickets, but the field could accommodate more. Hiner, who has been personally fielding phone calls from disappointed people unable to get tickets, plans to incrementally expand the scope of the event in the future in response to demand.

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