Phoebe Dunker visits the B.W. Pickett Equine Center off Overland
Trail seven days a week and sometimes more, if the horses need it.
Here she spends her time mucking out stalls, doing laundry,
changing horseshoes and oiling saddles. When all her work is
finished, she can finally play.
Polo, that is.
“I love horses and I love competitive sports, so polo is like
the best of both worlds for me,” said Dunker, a member of the CSU
club polo team. “I came here wanting to work with horses but then I
found out about polo and now I get to be a part of an awesome,
close-knit team as well.”
With more than 30 club sports at CSU, polo often goes unnoticed
and has never caught on with students obsessed with the weekly
football and volleyball games.
“We just don’t seem to be real crowd-pleasers,” said Carole
Becker during the CSU alumni polo game. Becker is a lifelong polo
fan and an ex-CSU club sports coordinator.
“I wish we had more support here because everyone on the team
does such a good job taking care of the horses,” she said.
Actually, the CSU polo team has enjoyed a wealth of success
recently. In 1999, the men’s team won the National Championship and
just last season the women’s team finished second at Nationals.
This season should be more of the same considering everyone on the
team has returned.
Even the polo announcer at home games, Francisco Negri, has been
around for years. This will be his fifth season as the team
announcer, and he has become a member of the team, lending pair of
hands when the horses need to be wrapped, washed or fed.
Then there is Anna Miaskiewicz, who played polo for eight years
in Littleton before coming to Fort Collins. She visited the Equine
Center during CSU’s Preview in 1999 and instantly became a member
and a huge part of the team for her four years at CSU.
“The social aspect of polo is amazing,” she said. “A lot of
people come out and they don’t completely understand, but we are
willing to teach anyone that wants to learn how to play.”
This makes polo a sport unlike any other. Instead of just having
to learn game play, players must maneuver their horse, take care of
it daily and provide money for the club sport to compete on a
Currently, CSU students compete with and care for 17 donated
ponies. Unfortunately for them, this is the lowest number of ponies
the teams have ever used.
An indoor polo game, like the CSU alumni game last weekend,
consists of three players per side, and four “chukkas,” or periods,
that last seven minutes. A goal is scored when a player hits the
mini-soccer ball into his/her opponent’s goal. Common penalties are
hooking, slashing and crossing the line, in which a free shot on
goal is given.
The high-speed game intensifies with the powerful horses that
are led around the 150-by-300-foot arena. Like a hockey game,
keeping an eye on the ball becomes a tough task considering the
speed at which the horses play.
Tara Vorhes, a member of CSU alumni team, graduated last May but
still comes out to play whenever she gets the chance.
“I played all four years in college and I won’t stop now,” she
On her horse, Harry, she looks around at the thousands of empty
seats inside the Pickett Center. Fewer than 50 fans are here to
enjoy the polo match, which does not surprise her.
“I love the game and the people and that is what keeps me coming
back here,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
It seems as if no matter how little the money or fan-base the
polo teams have, they will always be together doing what they love
most – being around horses and friends.