120 Years of Polo


On the 4th of July, 1893, at the Sheridan Fairgrounds, two polo teams calling themselves Sheridan and Beckton squared off in what Editor Joe Debarthe described as a wild scramble. Army scout and former Sioux tribesman Frank Grouard umpired the game. Mike Evans (founder of Tepee Lodge), George Beck (founder of Beckton) and Captain Pete Stockwell (a British officer formerly stationed in India) were among the players for Beckton and Bob Brown, Estes Polk, and a Robert Nix played for Sheridan. Over a thousand spectators witnessed the event.

In Dayton, Captain F.D. Grissell of the Ninth Lancers had already established a polo pony operation on his IXL ranch. Grissell had been a member of the first group to bring polo to England from India.

In 1898 Scotsman Malcolm Moncreiffe moved from Powder River to Big Horn and built a polo field and breeding operation. He exported Wyoming-bred thoroughbred polo horses and foxhunters to England and organized local horsemen to play polo in Big Horn. Early rosters included the names Spear, Cover, Sackett, Skinner, Wood, Roberts, Burnet and Bard.

At the turn of the century, Moncreiffe, Bob Walsh, John Cover and Lee Bullington won a tournament on the lawn of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs that featured several Army teams, a Denver team and a team from Kansas City. During this tournament, local cowboy John Cover was hailed as one of the top players in the United States.

In 1915, Tommy Hitchcock, the greatest American player to date, played at Moncreiffe field as a boy. Local games benefited the Salvation Army, Red Cross and raised funds for the Sheridan pool by passing the hat at half-time. There was never a cover charge.

After the First World War, Goelet Gallatin formed the Circle V Polo Company in Big Horn which was the premier polo operation in the world. Their breeding foundation was Black Rascal and Kemano. Broodmares were sent out by international players such as Hitchcock, Von Stade, Ambrose Clarke and Deveraux Milburn. Gallatin built a barn in Aiken, South Carolina where the Circle V polo horses were sent in the winter. In 1927 Oliver Henry Wallop’s son, Oliver, won the National Collegiate Championship for Yale.

In 1931, Cameron Forbes founded Neponset Stud Farm in Beckton to raise polo ponies. Forbes invited teams from all over the United States to play in the area and a friendly rivalry sprang up between the old Moncreiffe and Forbes fields. In the thirties, Tepee Lodge led by Alan Fordyce played a series of matches against Bones Brothers led by Little Bones Alderson. The Brewster’s Quarter Circle U Ranch in Birney also fielded teams at this time.

History repeated itself in 1948 on the lawn of the Broadmoor Hotel. The Neponset team of Ken Schiffer, Mike Long, Merrill Find and bill Gardiner won the National 12-Goal Championship match. By now, bloodlines of six Kentucky Derby winners were in the area.

Polo stopped in 1952 until Bob Tate brought polo back in 1963 with Malcolm and John Wallop, Kelly Howie, Doc Connell, Ike Fordyce and a Tepee Lodge team.

In the early eighties the Moncreiffe field was sold. A group of polo players established the Big Horn Equestrian Center. The Big Horn Polo Club expanded to be one of the three largest of over two hundred in the United States.

At the millennium two teams with their breeding operations in Sheridan won the U.S. Open as Diet Coke and C Spear brought home the most coveted trophy in North America.

2005 proved to be the zenith of a long history as the Flying H Polo Club became one of the three summer clubs in the United States to offer high-goal polo. Top international players participated including eight U.S. Open winners.

This year high-goal continues with some of the world’s best players at the Flying H.

Sam Morton

“Transition of the West”
Elsa Spear Byron Collection, THE Wyoming Room – Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library