Beach Polo Event Supports Vinceremos


It was overcast and blustery on a recent Saturday, but that didn’t stop the nine polo players — four from the Grand Champions Polo Club Unified Team and five from the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center — and hundreds of supporters and spectators from coming out to enjoy a fine event.

An Arctic vortex was on its way, and the clouds and winds ahead of it had people wearing longer sleeves than usual and hanging onto their hats. Parking within the small community of Palm Beach Shores was hard to come by. Helpful cops stood at each intersection, pointing out possible available spots.

“We’re trying to help more than a hundred people find parking in a town that fits about 50,” one policeman said. “We don’t usually allow parking along the streets, but that’s what we’re doing today. Have fun.”

That last comment was said honestly, not at all sarcastically. Indeed, everyone was in an upbeat mood, both in the sheltered community center, where food and drink was available and the music played, as well as down on the beach where a rectangle had been roped off for the match. Event coordinator Jill Wardle was busy flitting from one spot to the next, making sure everything ran smoothly.

“So far, it’s going pretty good,” she said. “Everyone’s having a great time. I especially want to thank our sponsors, Renegades, Buddy’s Singer Island Pub, PDQ Restaurant, the Law Offices of Michael Samuel Dyer, 561 Music & Multimedia, Palm Beach Equine, Italian Island Fusion and Johnny Longboats.”

Located in Loxahatchee Groves, the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center serves children and adults with developmental, physical or psychological disabilities, helping about 175 clients weekly.

“The event is going well; people are definitely coming out,” said Irma Saenz, administrative assistant for Vinceremos. “This is our first time doing something like this. It’s a great family event. Our horses got here at noon, and our players are ready to compete. And, of course, it all benefits Vinceremos.”

Four of the 24 very special, patient and calm equine partners had made the trip to Palm Beach Shores.

“We decided who to bring based on their personalities,” head instructor Cassidy Hoff said. “We brought six over last Monday to make sure they would be OK with the waves, and these four qualified.”

She patted a gray who stood next to the trailer munching hay. “This boy, Cody, is always our go-to guy. He’s one of my favorites, a real trooper,” Hoff said. “We hand-selected people who had worked really hard at polo camp last summer and deserved to come. We held practices, refreshing their skills at swinging the mallet and hitting the ball. They’re thrilled to be here. Our overall goal is to make more people aware of who we are and what we do. We can always use more volunteers and sponsors.”

The elite group consisted of Reed Gutner, Jeff Perham, Christina Cooney, Emma Streitfeld and Juan Burbano. The first four riders mounted up and were led down to the beach, trailed by two riders from Grand Champions. Spectators tromped over the boardwalk through the dunes and lined the playing field. The sand was cool underfoot.

Haley Keller, 12, from Wellington, was one of the many volunteers helping out.

“I’m an arena assistant,” she said. “I’ve been volunteering at Vinceremos about six months, and it’s really fun. I like spending time with the kids and horses. Helping out makes me feel good. This whole event is really cool.”

The horses and riders lined up for the throw in, the horses looking as if they lived their lives along the shore. Riders took turns swinging at the inflated ball, knocking it through one of the goals. Juan, for the Green Team, seemed to be doing particularly well, though everyone had a chance to hit the ball.

Each Vinceremos horse was led by a hand-walker, and the riders played with gusto and determination. An announcer kept up commentary while the spectators applauded and cheered.

“I heard about this on the news this morning,” said Sylvia, a Singer Island resident. “I’ve gone to a couple of polo matches in Wellington, so I walked down the beach to watch. It’s fabulous, very exciting. I’m sorry the weather isn’t better, but it’s wonderful to see all these people getting involved.”

“I have never seen a polo match before,” said David, a Royal Palm Beach resident. “My friend, Eddy, heard about it and said, ‘Let’s go.’ He dragged me here. It’s very unexpected, but a lot of fun. Don’t they usually play with a smaller ball?”

“This is a great event for a wonderful cause,” Eddy chimed in. “I really like what they’re doing.”

Both turned to root on the teams, cheering as the horses walked down the sand and another goal was scored. Neither one had heard of Vinceremos before.

Jo-An, visiting from Buffalo, N.Y., had no complaints about the weather.

“I’d much rather be here than there,” she laughed. “I came to the Polo on the Beach event last year. This is lots of fun. The riders get to show off their skills and do something special. I’m sure this kind of recognition helps their self-esteem. We’ll be back next year.”

The first match ended, the horses were led back to the trailer for a break, and the loudspeaker blared Jimmy Buffett tunes before the second match, featuring the Grand Champions “Future 10-Goalers.”

“Everyone had a great time; it definitely was a huge success,” Wardle said afterward. “Overall, we raised about $10,000.”

“We also made a lot more people aware of our programs,” Saenz added.

“We had a great day. I was ecstatic about the whole event,” Vinceremos Executive Director Ruth Menor said. “We raised awareness of Vinceremos, and our kids enjoyed a very special experience, working together as a team on the beach. They had a tremendous time, different from anything else they’ve ever done. We couldn’t have done this without help from everyone, especially Jill, our sponsors, and Palm Beach Shores. We’d love to do it again.”

In the end, it didn’t matter which team scored the most points. Everyone won.

For more information about the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, call (561) 792-9900, or visit or