Jamaican connection leads to polo journey

A CONTINGENT OF VICTORIA and Okanagan Polo Club players just returned from a polo trip to Jamaica. Victoria members Tony Yonge, Dan Pedrick and Mike Adey, and their wives Jill, Naoko and Frankie, were joined by Alex and Susan Wales, and Dan and Diane Challier of Kelowna, for the one-week adventure. The group flew to Montego Bay, where a bus picked them up and delivered them to villas owned by their hosts Danny and Carol Melville.

The origins of this trip date back to a visit two years ago by Melville, who makes yearly visits to his mother here in Victoria. After taking in a local polo game, the Melville's approached Tony Yonge and invited him to bring the Victoria players to Jamaica to play at Melville's home polo club.

A former Member of Parliament, Melville now works in Jamaica's tourism industry. He owns 81 horses, which he uses for the tourist activities of trail riding and swimming on horseback, as well as for polo. He and his three sons all play polo.

Yonge said their group had a stick and ball session a few days after their arrival, followed by a game two days later. The Canadian players mingled with Jamaican players to form two mixed teams for this practice game, which allowed the Canadians to get used to their mounts. On the weekend, a match was scheduled, with the Canadian team playing a Jamaican team that was equal in player handicaps. Players were well mounted on their thoroughbred polo ponies and the game was a good one, but in the end Jamaica beat Canada, six to four.

The Canadians were well entertained on their trip, a highlight being swimming on horseback. Melville accompanied the group, which rode out separately from the groups of tourists. After riding several miles to the beach, the guides removed the horse's saddles and bridles. While the riders changed into swimming suits, the horses were tacked up with rubber saddles and bridles. Remounted, the group rode into the sea, and then walked along parallel to the beach, the horses alternately walking and swimming as the depth changed. Yonge reported that they had to hang on tight at times to keep from slipping off, but that everyone thought it was fun.

The Canadian players have invited the members of the Jamaican team to make a reciprocal visit to B.C. this summer. The visitors will be billeted with local members, and will play a game in Victoria, before travelling to the Okanagan to play a game with the Okanagan club. Details of the match will be announced this summer.

Jamaican Journey Slide Show

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