World of Polo
Elizabeth Gossett ’18 found another family when she joined Cornell Women’s Polo her freshman year.
Gossett says joining the team was a chance for her to be a varsity athlete, and that she didn’t expect to be so close to her teammates.
“It sounds cliché, but it is actually very much a family environment, and I never realized how close to the team that I would be,” Gossett said.
Sessions twice weekly on Cornell’s polo ponies add up to about six hours every week, demanding fewer formal practice hours than most varsity sports. “It is still time consuming and we also have games on weekends,” Gossett said.
“There are also work crews, where you tack up and care for the horses during games and prepare the arena for the match.”
“I think of it like another class, probably a four-credit class. The amount of time it takes is pretty demanding.”
The balance between being a student and an athlete has been manageable, though, she said. “If anything, it helps me organize my time better because I know that I have more to do.”
“After joining the team, I was in awe of how accomplished our coach and many of the players are. Last year, Women’s Varsity Polo won the national title and Men’s Varsity Polo was a semi-finalist.”
“Our coach, David Eldredge, ranks first among all Cornell coaches in victories with more than 900 and counting.”
Interacting with horses, though, is Gossett’s main motivation for playing polo. “I was a three-day eventing competitor in high school and thought it would be fun to learn a new equestrian pursuit.” Eventing combines several equestrian sport disciplines – dressage, cross country and show jumping.
Cornell’s polo “ponies” – although tall enough to be considered horses, they are traditionally called “ponies” in the sport – are stabled and ridden in the Oxley Equestrian Center on Pine Tree Road, about a mile from campus.
Polo players are responsible for brushing the horses from head to toe, checking them for injuries, cleaning their water buckets, picking debris out of their hooves and clipping their manes. Players “adopt” a horse to care for, a week at a time, during the polo season.
“I actually asked for two horses. I took an extra just because I love doing it so much,” said Gossett, who considers Pipo her favorite steed. “I sometimes give him too much love and he is like ‘leave me alone.’”
Gossett also cares for Quinn. “He is very shy, so I always try to socialize him and give him extra love and attention.”