Polo proposal

By on June 17, 2015

Memorable moments from opening weekend

LR20150618_Polo11 LR20150618_Polo12It was a day of firsts at the opening of the 75th polo season in Rothsville.

First on-the-field marriage proposal. First runaway horse and buggy. First dog show featuring service dogs, performing pooches and adoptable pets.

“Welcome to Lancaster Polo Club’s first dog and pony show,” announced Bob LeMin as the 2015 season got underway.

It was a sultry day, with temperatures in the 90s, and more like the dog days of August than the usually breezy days of early June. The dogs at the Pet Pantry’s dog show got to cool off in wading pools filled with water. One puppy rested on a cooling ice pack in the steamy heat.

It was also a hot day for the local polo team, but they managed beat the heat and the players from Destiny Farm. After the first chukker, the score was tied at 3-3. By the fourth, Lancaster had pulled ahead 7-3. When the eight-chukker match was done, the score was 12-10, with Lancaster on top.

Usually the polo matches consist of six chukkers, or periods, of seven minutes each. With lots of polo ponies on hand, opening day was extended.

“We’re going to do eight chukkers today, and give everyone more time to play,” said LeMin.

As the ponies awaited their turn on the field, one of two horses tied up at the fence decided he was tired of standing around. Just after the second chukker was over, this horse, with buggy in tow, escaped the confines and bolted toward the pony trailers. His owner hustled over to get things under control, and the excitement was harnessed in short order.

But there was more excitement to come.

Jim Tesche, who brought his girlfriend Bethany Trunk to the season opener in a royal blue 1973 Cadillac El Dorado convertible, was about to make Forney Field history. While she thought they were out on the field stomping divots, he got down on one knee and proposed.

She said yes!

“This might be the first engagement here at Lancaster Polo,” LeMin said from the commentary booth. “Congratulations, Jim and Bethany.”

There were lots of first-timers on Sunday, including Nancy and John Mitchell of Mount Gretna. They celebrated the day with champagne, prosciutto and melon, French bread and French linens from their company LaCigale, which is French for Cicada. They were joined by friends Judy Weimer and Katie Carpenter.

It was not the first time for Bob LeMin Sr., who attends nearly every match while his son does the announcing. LeMin Sr. looks forward to celebrating his 92nd birthday in September as the polo season winds down.

“I always enjoy the polo season,” he said while trying to stay cool on a humid, breezeless afternoon.

All along the sidelines, tailgaters were back in full force. They had picnics with everything from fried chicken to fresh summer fruit. In between chukkers, they went out to stomp down the divots made by the ponies, a British tradition that even Queen Elizabeth II and her family indulged in England.

Lots of families brought their dogs for the show sponsored by Pet Pantry of Lancaster, raising awareness and funds for people who need extra help caring for their beloved pets.

Pet Pantry was founded three years ago and has helped provide food for some 250 families in the area. Through donations, this organization supplies more than 10,000 pounds of food to pets so that their owners can keep them.

The show also featured dogs doing tricks and running obstacle courses, adoptable pets from organizations like Lost Paws of Lancaster, rescue organizations for certain breeds, a pet portrait artist, food wagons (for people and pets) with pizza, barbecue and more, plus music by Fire in the Glen.

All of these first-timers got to enjoy the sport of kings, right in downtown Rothsville, at the polo field which is part of the Warwick Township park system. Every Sunday, from June through October, Forney Field is alive with royal action, with special events like Taste of Britain with British cars, tea and crumpets. Other events include the Summer Wear White Party, the Caribbean Cup, and the Chili Cook-Off.

Some of the players are part of the Work to Ride program, which was started in Philadelphia and gives young people an opportunity to learn the sport of polo. The program has been featured on 60 Minutes.

Learning the rules of polo is pretty easy. The match consists of three or four players on each team, playing six chukkers or periods that last seven and a half minutes. The horses and players take a break in between each chukker, changing horses, then take a longer half-time break after the third chukker.

“The only tricky part is that you switch goals,” said LeMin Jr., explaining that the game is played on a field with goal posts on each end as the players try to hit the ball between the posts to score one point. “After they score, they switch sides, so you have to pay attention.”

One or two mounted umpires accompany the players. A whistle is blown to indicate a foul, which stops the clock. Then they are back, racing up and down the field, with mallets in hand.

The Lancaster Polo Club was started 75 years ago by Lancaster County cattle dealers who were challenged to a polo game by a team from York New Salem. The four bought mallets and helmets, enlisted the coaching services of Charles Little and practiced at the old Lancaster Fairgrounds. They won that first match, and the Lancaster Polo Club was born.

For many years, they played at a field that is now Overlook Golf Course. When one of the four, Ben Forney, built a field on his farm in Rothsville in 1956, they had a new place to play. Forney was so dedicated to the sport that he played well into his 80s and was featured in Sports Illustrated as America’s oldest active polo player.

When Forney died in 1988 at age 84, part of his farm was sold. The polo field remained and several years ago, Warwick Township renovated the fields to keep Forney’s legacy alive.

The next match of the season will be on Sunday, June 21, with Hat Day, followed by the Stars & Stripes Forever Cup, Craft Beer Sunday, Tailgate Competition, and other events later in the season, like Taste of Britain, Caribbean Cup, Vineyard Wine tasting, Porsche Cup, and Chili Cook-Off.

Lancaster Polo matches are held Sundays at 2:30 p.m., with gates opening at 1 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, with children under 12 free, all going to support polo in Rothsville.

For more about Lancaster Polo and becoming a sponsor, visit the club’s website at lancasterpolo.org.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles.21@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  1. Robert LeMin

    June 17, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Thanks for fine coverage – many exciting photos of the Polo Season Opener. Seeing the photo of my Dad is like an early Father’s Day bonus. We appreciate everything the Lititz Record does to help get the word out about Polo.

    • editor

      June 18, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you, Bob. Local polo matches every Sunday is such a unique attraction for our community. We look forward to providing more coverage throughout the season. Keep in touch!

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