Polo team struggles to house horses

The Yale Polo and Equestrian Center was closed for good over the summer — and with the barn closed, the polo team has nowhere to keep the horses.
The Yale Polo and Equestrian Center was closed for good over the summer — and with the barn closed, the polo team has nowhere to keep the horses. Photo by Carmen Lu.

Since the closure of the nearly century-old Yale Armory, an athletic facility located on Central Avenue, on Sept. 2, the Yale polo team has been scrambling to house their 15 homeless horses.

The University closed the Armory because funding for the long overdue renovations at the Central Avenue site could not be secured, Steve Conn, director of sports publicity at Yale, wrote in a statement. The closure poses financial and logistical strains for the Yale polo team, which must find alternative housing for its horses and means of transporting the horses to the Yale Arena for regular match practice, and for other groups who use the facility.

“The announcement was an absolute shock to me and all those involved with Yale polo,” said Elizabeth Kennedy ’11, president of Yale polo.

Kennedy said the polo team was notified of the news on June 4 through a member of the Polo Alumni Board who told team members that the current economic downturn and the building’s state of disrepair forced the closure.

Nine of the team’s 15 remaining horses are being held at a farm in Cooperstown, NY. Another six horses are on lease until the end of the month.

Even if alternative nearby housing arrangements for the horses are found, Jessica Glass, the women’s polo captain, said the team will still face the financial burden of paying for extra transportation costs as well as training and logistical difficulties.

“We are down to 15 horses, compared to the 50 or so we had before,” Glass explained. “This puts a huge strain on the team, because it’s really tough to accommodate varsity practices, beginner lessons, JV practices and host games with so few horses.”

The loss of the Armory will cast a cloud over the team’s future, former Yale polo President Matthew Baer ’09 said. He said the team has already scheduled more away games because other universities are “sympathetic” to Yale’s situation.

“The question of whether the team will continue to exist will depend on how dedicated the current polo players are and how eager the beginners will be,” Baer said.

Other equestrian activities, too, will be affected by the closure of the armory, Conn wrote in the statement.

“As the Department of Athletics vacates and suspends all programmatic activities at the Stables, it will evaluate the future viability of its various equestrian club teams, teaching activities, polo, and community programs.”

New riders on the Yale equestrian team, who once could take lessons at the armory, must travel to River’s Edge Farm in Bethany, Conn., for lessons, the team’s president, Lauren Noble ’11, said. Noble added that she believes the move will affect future membership.

Among the other casualties of the closure are the Leg Up Program ,which offered riding lessons to disadvantaged local youths, and Armory staff members who have been fired or transferred elsewhere within the University.

Nevertheless, members of both the polo and equestrian teams said they remain hopeful that a favorable solution can be found. Kennedy and Noble said they are currently looking to form a joint partnership between the equestrian and polo teams. Kennedy added that she is working to solicit donations for a new stable with the help of the Yale Development Office.

The Yale Armory dates back to 1916 when it was first built as a U.S. cavalry training center during World War I.

Comments