In 1972 the polo sex barrier was broken by a woman of disguise. After decades of posing as a man during matches, fake mustache included, the U.S. Polo Association admitted Sue Sally Hale into the ranks with its gentlemen. Hale was a pioneer, clearing the way for the fastest growing demographic in a ‘Game of Kings’- women. Decades later, in 2000, her daughter, Sunny Hale made history as well by becoming the first woman to compete on a winning team in the U.S. Open.
Step a-side-saddle, boys!
If you pay close attention to those playing on the fields of Bethpage Polo at the Park and Meadowbrook Polo Club, you’ll recognize one of its own ladies, Slaney O’Hanlon. This 24-year-old woman from Manhasset has been playing since the age of 15, after shadowing a friend who taught lessons.
“I got addicted,” O’Hanlon confessed. “I went home and told my parents that’s what I wanted to do every single day for the rest of my life.”
And she did. Her addiction created opportunities many only dream of. As a female player of today, O’Hanlon is fortunate to travel for the game she loves so much. “In February I got back from Thailand, which is probably the coolest place I’ve gotten to play…No matter where you go, polo is a small community…when you go to other places to watch you still feel like you’re in that community.”
Fortunate for polo players, the community also includes majestic animals. Depending on the day, O’Hanlon has three polo ponies of her own to choose from. Merlot, Beau and Sorpresa (surprise in Spanish). Running the area equivalent to nine footballs fields, these teammates often times represent the majority of a players game.
More than competitive mallet swinging, upon acquiring Meadowbook Polo Club, in 2016 O’Hanlon began working for Bob Ceparano, where she teaches at the polo school and helps to organize clinics
“I think [Bob’s] ideas are growing the club and the polo school…in the next few years everybody will see the growth…[Meadowbrook] can turn into the historic club it used to be.”
Meadowbrook Polo Club carries an historic significance. Back in the 1930s crowds upward of 30,000 attended matches regularly. Though it may take some time to restore an audience of such grandeur, for now we’ll be cheering on the players just the same.