Mark Tashjian has loved polo ever since he was a child and went with relatives to see a match in Hamilton. He wants people young and old to experience the joy of learning the sport, and teaches the techniques at his Boston Polo School.
Tashjian learned the sport when he was a student at the University of Connecticut where he received a degree in economics. He has been an assistant manager at the Myopia Polo Club and managed Shallowbrook in Connecticut and Blue Sky Club in Middletown, New York before coming back to Massachusetts to start his school just over a year ago.
"I grew up in Worcester but had family in Manchester," said Tashjian, who played professionally in the United States, Dubai, and New Zealand. "I saw my first match when I was little, and when my college offered a polo program I joined right away. I started riding and playing polo at the same time. I still play, especially in the summer time."
Tashjian welcomes newcomers, especially inexperienced riders. At Boston Polo School he offers both private and group lessons to learn the techniques of the sport and rules of the game. After a few solo lessons he recommends joining a beginners group to become more accomplished through drills and practicing chuckers. Owning a horse is not necessary; he supplies them. Tashjian also shoes horses professionally.
"Most of the young people that come to my school have only ridden horses a couple of times, and most of the adults have never been on a horse before," said Tashjian. "Usually within five or six weeks they feel very comfortable and confident on a horse. More experienced riders only need three lessons to go into a beginners group. Once a month or at least every other month we do clinics. I have people helping me, who have already gone through the training.
"We have a student team and an adult team with an age range from 12 to around 50. The school is something I do year round. In winter we're exclusively in a barn I rent in Hamilton with a big indoor riding ring. Around 15 people come out on a regular basis two nights a week and on weekends. Almost every Sunday we have a game here, and sometimes on Saturdays we travel or host a game here."
Tashjian explained there are two seasons with middle school and high school students riding indoors from October through February. The outdoor season runs from the end of May through September and involves more traveling to Newport, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.
"A lot of different states have interscholastic teams, but there are none in the Boston area," said Tashjian. "We have a lot of people from the North Shore, some from the South Shore, and a couple from Maine. The next closest place to play is in Newport."
There is a co-ed team and a girls team at Boston Polo School that competes with other clubs in the Northeast and around the country as part of the US Polo Association's Interscholastic Tournament program.
"We went to a tournament at Cornell University last month, and in the summer we like to go to the Finger Lakes or Quechee (Vermont) for tournaments. This winter we sent teams of club members to Poland and India for international matches. It's a great sport; a lot of fun, and once you try it you get hooked. I know I did."