By Jean DePlacido
---- — Nick Snow has traveled around the world playing polo. This summer he has returned to his roots on the North Shore and the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton.
Snow is a member of the famous polo playing family from Ipswich, and has not only been competing but also taking an active teaching role at the Myopia Junior Polo Clinic that just wrapped up.
“I’ll be here through the end of September; I’m getting married next month,” said Snow, a 27 year-old former Harvard University polo club captain. “We were smack dab in the middle of the polo season at Myopia; July and August are when the four big tournaments are held.
“I brought my 11 horses (polo ponies) up here; that’s the whole crew. You need to rotate them depending on how much you are playing so I need them all. I’ve been living in Aiken, South Carolina, but haven’t been back in about a year. Polo involves a lot of traveling around the circuit. South Carolina has been my home base for the last three years, and my brother has a place down there.”
Snow spent the winter months in Palm Beach, Florida before moving on to Houston, Texas in April where he captained the professional USPA team. Polo is a sport he was introduced to as a very young child. Kids often start out running and hitting the long handled mallet before they even get on a horse because there is a lot of skill involved in addition to being an accomplished equestrian.
Snow went to Shore Country Day, and then to St. Paul’s in Concord, New Hampshire where he played soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. He was on the Crimson hockey team for two years before given up the sport and turning his attention to polo.
“Hockey was my first love; sports were always an essential part of my life,” said Snow. “Growing up I played a lot of different ones, but hockey took most of my time. I played 24-7 and even took a year off after high school to play in the Eastern Junior Hockey League for the Falcons out of Enfield, Connecticut. I lived with a host family, and had a lot of fun.”
Polo became first priority
Harvard had just started the polo program up again when Nick arrived and his father, Crocker Snow, was involved in coaching. It wasn’t long before Nick was devoting all his energy to improving his game and recruiting others to take the trip to Ipswich for practice sessions. Harvard grad Tommy Lee Jones happened to be a polo enthusiast and helped the team out by supplying some horses. Snow had an outstanding college career, and was a two time USPA Intercollegiate Northeastern Region All-Star.
“I started playing in tournaments at Myopia (oldest active polo club in America) when I was 11 or 12, but I didn’t take it seriously until I began competing at Harvard,” said Snow who has a four-goal handicap (lowest is minus 2 and highest 10 which Snow’s older brother Adam achieved). Polo is hockey on horseback. It’s very physical, very fast, and is a team sport which I really like. You have to ride well just like you have to be able to skate in hockey, but there’s a lot more to it than just riding around. You need eye-hand coordination, and my background in all the other sports really helps me out.”
Polo employs a handicap system to keep all the playing fields level.
“The idea of the handicap is to keep on climbing up. Each goal level you move up the more competitive it becomes, and you need to have better horses in order to be successful. I’m not really into what my handicap is; my goal is to reach my potential as a player. My brother Adam turned pro after college and went to Argentina where the players are pros from the time they are teenagers,” said Snow. “It’s a different path in that country. Adam won the US Open twice and the Argentine Open which is considered the best polo in the world.”
Nick graduated from college in 2009 and went to Argentina where he spent a year playing against the best in the world. He has been a member of Team USPA (United States Polo Association) since 2010 and represented this country in the FIP 2011 Zone A playoffs and World Championship in Argentina. He has played in Canada, England, Dominican Republic, and Argentina as well as all over this country.
“I played on the US team for the World Championship last fall, and two years ago was on the FIP which is like the World Cup; you have to qualify out of a region,” said Snow, who won the USPA National Copper Cup in Aiken a year ago and was named MVP of the tournament.”
Last February Snow was selected as recipient of the 2013 Equus and Co. Award in Lake Worth, Florida for his dedication and commitment to polo. It is given to the person, who best exemplifies the program’s principles, and a check for $10,000 goes along with the award. Snow also received a unique engraved belt buckle which was presented to him at the International Polo Club in Palm Beach by Charles Smith, chairman of Team USPA, who is in the Polo Hall of Fame. Snow has been a mentor to young polo players and organized a junior polo training series in South Carolina.
“It’s a very nice award, and the cash prize went toward purchasing a horse,” said Snow. “I am part of a Team USPA program to help nurture young American polo players. It is something we need to do, and I enjoy working with the younger kids. I want to help them because so many people helped my career along.”
Developing the talent in this country is the main purpose of the program Snow is involved in, and he teaches up and coming players in both South Carolina and Florida. Polo ponies are actually full sized horses that require a lot of training for the job they must perform on the playing field which is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide outdoors or roughly the size of nine football fields. The game is played in chukkers (periods), and fresh mounts are needed during matches.
“Horses are such a major part of this sport; some people say 75 percent of your handicap is your horse. You really have to take good care of them and treat them even better than you treat yourself. When I go back to South Carolina I’ll give the horses some time to rest before going to Florida to compete for the winter season. That will be a good break for them, and one they really need.
“Preparation is the most important part of the sport. I will be busy all winter on the Florida circuit. In the spring and fall it moves North either to Texas, California, or the Carolina’s. Then in the summer it goes all the way up to Canada, New York, or Chicago. You have to be willing to travel, and I am. I love the team aspect and the camaraderie of the sport.”