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The Central Oregon Polo Club/Pacific Northwest Women’s League practices from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at DeCourcey Ranch east of Bend. The fall season runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, and the group will continue meeting through the winter, with activities dependent on weather conditions.

Playing members must be able to ride a horse and have access to a horse, although the horse does not have to be a trained polo pony. If necessary, the club can help prospective players locate a horse or find a riding instructor. Full club members must pay $150 for annual U.S. Polo Association dues and a $100 annual club membership fee. To learn more, contact Christy Hartman-DeCourcey at 503-866-8255 or DeCourceyRanch@gmail.com or Kerry Blomgren, 541-382-7889.

At the Central Oregon Polo Club, matching is overrated.

During a Saturday evening practice at club treasurer Christy Hartman-DeCourcey’s property east of Bend, one girl took instruction wearing star-spangled cowgirl boots. Although polo is traditionally an English-style equestrian discipline, Hartman-DeCourcey said the club includes members who play with Western-style saddles. Hartman-DeCourcey herself practiced on Rocky, a well-fed Mustang whom she once expected to live out his days as a pasture pet. All of the horses on the field — and three of the women riding them — are still “green,” just learning the finer points of polo.

But this is exactly what Hartman-DeCourcey, 64, and Kerry Blomgren, 45 and of Bend, had in mind in July, when they started their own polo club specifically catering to female players.

“It’s not an elitist sport, it can actually be a sport not just of kings, but of friendship and camaraderie and support,” Hartman-DeCourcey said. “I told my husband, what do you think? Let’s build a polo field!”

Blomgren, who has played with several different polo clubs in Bend since she took up the sport 10 years ago, said she had wanted to start a women’s team for several years, and had also wanted to find a group that continued polo activities through the winter, when many local clubs go on hiatus. When she learned Hartman-DeCourcey, a newcomer to the sport, felt the same way, they decided to start such a club themselves. In the month and a half since, more than 20 riders from a variety of equestrian backgrounds (mostly women, but a few men, as well) have come to team functions to try out the new club.

“There are going to be some (club members) who are going to be highly competitive, I can tell you right now,” Hartman-DeCourcey said. “And then, there are going to be some who just want to come out here, hit the ball and have a cocktail afterwards.”

Blomgren said that during her time in polo, she has encountered clubs with a vibrant social side and others that offered excellent technical instruction, and she wanted to make sure both were a part of the Central Oregon Polo Club, which also encompasses the Pacific Northwest Women’s League. Although Blomgren has enough experience to teach beginning players the basics, she also plans to bring in polo pros throughout the year to give more in-depth clinics. At the same time, she and Hartman-DeCourcey want casual players to feel comfortable dropping by for evening scrimmages in the same way basketball players might play pickup games or join a city rec league. They are also open to polo enthusiasts who are no longer able to ride or are not interested in playing themselves, but who still enjoy the sport and want to watch and attend events.

“We’re all-encompassing,” said Blomgren, who noted that her 10-year-old son is also a member. “We want it to be a big polo club where everyone is welcome.”

Hartman-DeCourcey said she and several other club members will play in their first tournament — The Pretty Woman Polo Tournament in La Conner, Washington — on Saturday and Sunday. If the club — and the polo field — grows as planned, they plan to host a women’s tournament in June 2018, and a coed tournament in September.

“We want to keep a women’s league, to travel to different areas for that,” Blomgren explained. “I want to have good scrimmages here. We want it to be a holistic club: you learn the rules, you learn how to ride your horse (for polo), you learn how to make your horse a better player, and you learn how to make yourself a better player.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

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