Hot to Trot: Palisades Chamber of Commerce Polo Tournament at Will Rogers

By Brook Dougherty
Special to the Palisades News

Once again, it’s time to head to Will Rogers State Historic Park for the annual Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce polo tournament. Six teams are competing, and there will be even more family-friendly attractions than usual. The event is scheduled for this Sunday, October 8, at 11 a.m. (the championship game begins about 1 p.m.). It’s free, it’s fun and the sound of hooves thundering down the field is about as exciting as it gets this side of Sepulveda.

On a recent Sunday, I wandered up to Will Rogers to interview some of the horses who will be playing on the big day. Usually, I compare polo to politics, but this year, I wasn’t in the mood to come up with a funny name for a horse President. The sky was overcast, and the whole politics-as-humor thing had been wearing on me.

I poked around the trailers, looking for attractive ponies to photograph while trying to figure out how I could make polo politically correct. Polo is known as the game of kings and a sport only the wealthy can afford, so how do you sell that to young parents who spend sentence after careful sentence telling their kids that everyone is equal, and you’re not elitist, and no your kid’s Persian friend is not a terrorist. It’s hard to be a Palisadian parent today.

Polo players from Argentina attend USC and play polo at Will Rogers on weekends.

I stopped at a trailer that said, “Fair Hills Farms,” struck by a handsome lineup of brown boy ponies. I asked a friendly groom whom I should speak with about photographing them, and he pointed me to the paterfamilias of the stud muffins, Mr. Mickey Brittan.

Mickey was up on the grass field, educating a birthday party of folks who had never seen polo before. I introduced myself, and as we started talking, I fell into a sort of utopian polo trance and a world where all people cared about was heart, speed, attitude and conformation. Oh, and winning. They care about winning a lot.

In my polo state of mind, I felt the Downton Abbeyness of it all. Mickey pointed out that some of the stable people were the children of people who had worked for the barn for decades and some were children of players. Oh blessed diversity, I thought, and felt that sweet rush of no-blesse oblige that happens when many children are swept along in the tide of upper-class largesse.

Later, I met players from around the globe lounging amidst piles of boots and blankets and mallets and not talking about politics. It was bliss, a mini stay-cation, a lit- tle teeny example of what the world could be if people played more and talked less.

But the true encapsulation of the Will Rogers Polo Club vibe happened when Mickey began pointing out the ponies his son, Graydon, was riding as he changed them out over the course of the game. These were the ponies I had seen earlier.

They were brothers out of an Argentin- ian mare named Jalapena, may her memory be a blessing. She came to the USA as an immigrant needing a home, which she found with Mickey. Under his wing, she gave birth to a string of brothers, among them, Chipotle, Serrano, Tabasco, Rimsky, and a filly named Belle Pepper.

I made some joke about DACA for ponies and wasn’t it nice that they didn’t need to worry about being deported and Mickey said,“I’ll tell you something funny.” There was a time, he told me, when Jews weren’t allowed to play polo, yet here, in the gritty urban bubble known as the Palisades, the celebration of the polo club’s 64th season is being delayed a week. Why? Because so many of the club players will be celebrating the Jewish holidays. Go figure. Don’t you just love the Palisades?

Son of Jalapena.
Photo: Brook Dougherty

We hope to see lots families and friends come out for polo, face painting, fabulous food, champagne and the divot stomp on October 8. In between chukkers, you will have a chance to meet and pet the beasts and ask basic questions about tail braiding. Best of all, you can sit on the fence surrounding the huge field and let the incessant yammering of the world be silenced as the hooves of big-hearted ponies go roaring by. See you there.

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