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

  • Design Build ’10

    They should make an architecture class where they do the same thing they do for a house in New Haven every year. Get a bunch of students to do some of the work on the renovation for school credit, and save money for the school. I am not saying they should do this instead of a house, but just a different group of students could do it. This should be in collaboration with Forestry and Engineering so it could be a “Green” building.

    YALE of all places can’t lose its Polo team! This is so embarrassing for the school. It is a serious downgrade… puts us behind Harvard. Not ok. While many things like investing in actual academics are extremely important… we do have a reputation to maintain here.

  • 08Alumna

    Having taken riding lessons at the old Armory for several years as a Yale grad student, I can’t say how sorry I am to hear that the building and the riding programs have been closed down. Over the last years, the lesson program made safe, affordable, high quality instruction accessible – not just to Yale students, faculty and staff but also to members of the community. Several publicly funded programs bused young children in from city schools to take regular riding lessons. In my experience, the old Armory was been one of the places where one could genuinely see Town and Gown coming together, with fine results.

    Unfortunately, despite these merits the facility had been poorly maintained and underfunded for years. Now that it has been closed completely, there is no available alternative. This is a real shame. Having a facility like this that is local, urban and easily accessible from campus is a rare and special thing. I hope that someone at Yale will recognize the historic value of this building and the real benefits that the programs housed there brought to the surrounding community. It is a genuinely worthy cause.

  • Polopissed

    People: It’s an elitist sport played/funded by the wealthiest of the wealthy. There is little reason for a polo team to exist at Yale, thought the community service angle is nice. Find wealthy alums to fund the team or shut it down, who really cares?

  • i care

    To polopissed: You should really think about the benefits a facility like the polo and equestrina center has before you post anything. The facility itself is definitely in need of major renovations…. but it is a wonderful thing not only for the students but for the community also. I know that alot of hearts were broken when they found out about the closure of the facility.

  • pro polo and poor

    polopissed, as someone who lives on 11,000 a year, I enjoyed using the equestrian facilities. I realize that if you take into consideration the entire world and the global south, $11,000 a year does put me into the “wealthiest people in the world” category by comparison. But it’s not really a lot of money by US Standards. The existence of the Yale Equestrian Center enabled me to access this wonderful art of riding horses. The sport of polo in itself is not elitist… though I agree it would be great if there could also be an open, “Town” polo team too (maybe it was not possible given the $ of the department and you can’t exercise horses too much in that way?)

  • former rider at Yale

    I rode at the Yale barn for years and I even leased a horse or two. I loved every minute of it. That said, it was well beyond time to either undertake a multi-million dollar renovation to make the facility safe for horses and humans alike – or shut it down. For several years, there were unsuccessful efforts to raise money from alum and current players alike – and each time those efforts fell short. As a result, the barn was drafty and the upstairs was literally falling down. Worse, management, despite their best efforts, was unable to offset the high costs of feeding, maintaining and vetting 60 horses through lessons, leases and rental fees.

    Although I miss having the Yale barn in my backyard, the decision to shut it down was the right thing to do. Still, I hope the university can find a way to help the polo and equestrian teams find suitable horses and practice space.

  • The Contrarian

    YALE is funded by the wealthiest of the wealthy. God Bless them, every one!

  • howtohelp

    Of course, we cannot loose our Polo team! How can the community help? I would like to donate what time and money I can to getting the program back. Does anyone know how I can help? Yale needs polo. It IS a priority!