In the first of its kind in Wine Country, more than 500 people attended a polo match Sunday in Santa Rosa to raise money for programs that help wounded veterans.
Retired financier Henry Trione, a polo aficionado who has nurtured the sport in Sonoma County and whose name is attached to the polo field next to Oakmont, summed up the reason for Sunday's event.
“It's so very vital. People don't realize the number of veterans who are seriously incapacitated,” he said.
He said fund-raisers for programs are critical because “of the thousands of veterans that are incapacitated. The Veterans Administration provides a minimum amount of facilities.”
Trione, 90, is a veteran of World War II who served as a lieutenant senior grade in the U.S. Navy. But he appreciates a game that has ties to mounted soldiers. Polo has ancient origins, but in the 1800s it was revived and sustained by British and American cavalry officers who used it to improve horsemanship and leadership skills.
So it seemed fitting that a polo match would be used to help wounded veterans.
“There are deep ties between the cavalry and polo. There is a deep military connection,” said Kermit Claytor, a commander in the Order of St. John, an historic Christian order of chivalry, a group that traces its roots back to the Crusades in the late 11th century.
A publicist said Sunday's event raised more than $40,000 in ticket and table sales, not including proceeds from a silent auction and other donations expected to boost the total.
“The community has been very responsive to this cause. We think it will really grow,” said Shirley Schaufel, event coordinator for the Wine Country Polo Club, which hopes to make the “Wounded Warriors Polo Benefit” an annual event.
Under blue, cloud-brushed skies with red-tinged Hood Mountain as a backdrop, spectators watched the hard-charging polo ponies and their mallet-swinging riders gallop the green field.