The Big Horn Equestrian Center host polo games every Sunday and practice matches throughout the summer months, fielding teams from the Big Horn Polo Club, the oldest polo club west of the Mississippi. For match schedules, call (307)674-4928 or visit the Big Horn Equestrian Center website: http://www.thebhec.org/2015_calendar_july.html
Many are surprised to find polo such an integral part of Sheridan and Big Horn but polo has a long and storied history in the area, dating back to the 1880’s. To understand how polo made its way to our section of the west, we must take a trip back in history.
Although the Oregon Trail crossed through the middle of Wyoming following the Platte River and its tributary the Sweetwater, and the transcontinental railroad was built through southern Wyoming, the lands in northeast Wyoming were largely ceded to the Northern Plains Tribes including the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne who had successfully shut down the Bloody Bozeman Trail opened after the Civil War and obtained rights to vast lands in the Treaty of 1868.
From the perspective of the white homesteader at that time, northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana were no man’s land, the last of the west to be styled – exactly the kind of open range where one could run large cattle herds fed by the stream of cattle drives from Texas. At the same time, the British doctrine of primogeniture, by which the oldest male heir to inherited the entire state, forced English noblemen to finance the adventures of their younger sons abroad. Many of these young men, like Oliver Henry Wallop and Malcolm Moncreiffe, found their way to Wyoming and Montana, bringing thoroughbred horses.
The proof of the successful efforts in breeding and raising fine thoroughbreds in this area came in 1901 when officers from the British Remount Service came to Big Horn to buy thoroughbreds to ship to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. At one point there were thousands of thoroughbred horses standing for inspection and purchase by the British buyers.
The Polo Ranch, which Oliver Wallop inherited from Malcolm Moncreiffe and in turn handed it down to Senator Malcolm Wallop, was the center of Polo in the Northern Rockies until the early 1980’s when the ranch was sold. It has the distinction of being the oldest field in the United States on which polo had been played continuously.
The sale of the Polo Ranch forced the Big Horn Polo Club to find another field. Shirley Taylor’s three children, Jim, Watty and Margie who played polo, led efforts to stimulate the search for a new field. A meeting at the firm of Burgess & Davis was convened by Shirley with Watty Taylor, Bill King and Kim Cannon in 1983. A tour of the Burns Ranch with Bruce Burns in July, 1984 led to the identification of the present site of the Big Horn Equestrian Center. The original lease was signed on May 2, 1985 and the fields were built with a great deal of work from Bob, Mike and Orin Connell. Kurt Luplow moved the old schoolhouse from the Big Horn School and adapted it for the clubhouse.
The Big Horn Equestrian Center recognizes that the horse is the center of much of the Big Horn history and culture. The facility was created as a place that honors and will present “everything a a horse can do.”