American Polo Pioneer
Sue Sally Hale
Sue Sal was a lady that I feel all women in the sport of Polo looked up to and respected. She was a mentor with a heart of gold. Greatly missed and never forgotten as she made her mark on the entire world.
--Susan Bolinger-Pierce and Kimberlee (Bolinger) Kramarczyk
Years ago I read and followed Sue Sally Hale's story in Polo Magazine. Although I never met her, I tried to emulate her philosophy as a horse lover and as significantly, as a mother. My son refers to my horses and dogs and cats as his brothers and sisters in his formative years and became a very well rounded individual and I often think that raising your child in a barn may be a guarantee of mental and physical health. Maybe when I join her on the big field i can get some of those lessons I missed out on. Thanks to Sue Sally and people like her our children will think of polo as a wonderful game, not a fragrance.
I spent the most influential years of my life living with Sal (from 8 to 15 years old). She taught me so much about working hard, being strong, and how to laugh when times are hard. I was so lucky to have Sal and Sunny as my role-models during these years. Everyone knows about Sal's own way of doing things, and these are a few of my favorites: Stitching up horse wounds with dental floss, "letting" us do road trips in the nose of the trailer (with the tack and feed... and the lovely smell of the trailer), Keeping the water troughs clean with gold fish (to eat the algae), Building a friendship between a horse and a duck, convincing us that peanut butter, mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches were delicious, sending Sunny on one of the horses down the side of a freeway, bareback with a halter, in the middle of the night, to find a gas station when the trailer broke down (a common occurance), using players to pull out her wisdom tooth, etc. etc. etc. I could go on forever. The most exciting years of my life so far are definitely those spent living with Sal. She is a huge part of who I am today and I am grateful that my mom and I had the chance to be a part of her life.
Some friends and I were having discussions about early horse experiences tonight - we all have saluki dogs and live all over the country. I mentioned that I had ridden in Malibu and Sullivan Canyon in the mid/late 50s - first with a man named Egon Mertz and then with a young woman named Sue Sally Hale. What a coincidence that a friend now living in Portland grew up in Pacific Palisades overlooking Will Rogers Park and also rode with Egon Mertz and in Sullivan Canyon on Fridays! Another friend did a websearch for Sue Sally Hale and sent me the links. I have been sitting here reading the articles and the loving memories people have of her and thinking what an exceptional person she was. I am so sorry to learn she is no longer living, and I'm feeling quite sad about that.
I did see Sue Sal again at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton, California when I was an adult and she was living in Carmel Valley, and I had a horse again, of course, but was involved with dressage and some jumping. My still happy memories of Sue Sal are the rides we took on weekend mornings in Sullivan Canyon on Elizabeth Whitney's thoroughbreds that Sue Sal was using for polo. The one I loved best was a heavily ticked grey, and the few of us lucky enough to be there rode through the hills on bareback pads, wending our way through the trees and shrubs growing on the hillsides.
I met Sue Sal at Deer Springs summer camp in Malibu in 1958, if my childhood memory is correct, when she was the riding instructor. When camp ended, my mother, who thought very highly of Sue Sal, found that she also taught riding during the rest of the year, and so the memorable weekend mornings on those gorgeous thoroughbreds came into my life.
And so, I thought I would share those very long ago memories of an exceptional woman who even in her young years managed to provide me with remembered pleasures 46 years later. I am very sad to know she is gone.
My earliest recollections are of meeting Sue Sally when I was 4 years old. I wanted to ride horse so bad, so my parents lined me up for riding lessons with Sue Sally. At the time she had a barn on Westridge Road and would ride by my home on lower Mandeville Canyon to pick me up. I remember one day when were went out for a ride, we stopped by her Mom’s house to visit. Just as we approached, she introduced me to their neighbor, Ronald Reagan.
As I grew up, I rode for Jack and Andy Smith, close neighbors on Mandeville. We rode all the way to Will Rodgers Polo Fields each Sunday. I took a few clinics, practiced a little arena polo and spent hours at C.D. Le Blanc’s polo cage practicing. I rode for the Smith’s for 14 years, before heading off to college.
During my teenage years, I worked in Carmel, as a counselor and cook…Brook and Stormy were tiny kids. Dawn was lovingly referred to as “Lumpy” by Sue Sal, due to the number of bruises she accumulated. This is my first recollection of her pet “attack” goose.
As a young married gal, I really wanted to play polo and bought property in Paso Robles and Creston, California. When I would visit Sue Sal in Simi Valley, she would set me up on a pony and give me 2 others to haul around, as we roared around the place, we would calmly carry on a conversation and discuss old times.
As an adult I visited Sue Sal several times In Simi and Pal Desert, the last time, I took my kids. I wanted them to meet this wonderful lady who had meant so much to me during my lifetime. She was living in the barn with her paintings and possums, while the house was leased out to several aging polo players.
I will always cherish the memories of the 50 years, I knew Sue Sally Hale!
--Cherie Taylor Dalton
When I was a young girl in grade school I took riding and jumping lessons from Sue Sally in Carmel Valley and later went to a summer camp of hers down the coast from Carmel. I learned so much during those years. I gave up riding once entering high school and pursued other sports but never forgetting my love of riding. A year and a half ago I started playing polo. Sue Sally was my inspiration after all those years. When people ask me where I learned to ride I proudly say "from Sue Sally Hale!" I have fallen in love with polo. I now watch Sunny play whenever she comes to Santa Barbara and am again inspired to be a better rider and polo player. My one regret is that I never had a chance to meet Sue Sally again and tell her in person what joy her polo inspiration has given me. I was filled with overwhelming sadness when I heard about Sue Sally's death. I owe my love of riding and polo to Sue Sally Hale..
The “Polo Way of Life” gave me so much in my life, and it all started with meeting Sue Sally Hale. I started out completely green to polo, and due to my friendship with Sal, I became totally involved to the point of co-owning Moorpark Polo Club, the first USPA recognized club owned by women. For seven years, I watched Sal’s influence on others – everyone who participated in our club, other players we saw at tournaments, and especially all her students – they all loved Sue Sal. She had an unlimited enthusiasm for polo, and my daughter Rima and I were completely caught up in it. We loved all her kids as part of our own family. Sal used to tell me she wanted to “die with her boots on”- quickly, and with her horses around her. I am so sorry she is gone, but once again, she “did it her way”. My memories are too many to mention, but Sal made my life in polo so full.
Thanks, Sue Sal.
I was so sad to here about the passing of my Aunt Sue Sal by a friend who lives in the desert. It was in the paper. I missed out on the memorial but I am sure it was very special. When one of these memorials talked about camp and Crownie, Bucky, Willy, and Thumper the tears just came. I don't know if she ever knew the joy she gave to this little "city" girl who used to love going to buy my cowboy boots and jeans for camp each summer in Carmel. I certainly was no horsewoman but I just loved being around her. Everyone is right, she was someone very, very special. I call it the "light", she had it tenfold. She was larger than life. I first met her when my Uncle Alex was dating the "indian woman with feathers and a cat draped over her shoulders. She was cool and different and I was fascinated! I saw her play as "Alex Hale" in a polo tournament at the Will Rogers Polo grounds. Being an athlete myself, I totally got her "obsession" with her sport and what joy it brought her to play. I knew all the kids as babies and me and my siblings spent a whole summer at their house when times were challenging for our family. A cook, she was not. But, it was always filling. :-) I'll never forget the times when we would ride the horses down to the beach at Point Lobos for a bonfire and marshmellows. Sue Sal would go into the ocean, way out, and play with the seals. She was the real "Mother of Nature." To my cousins who I haven't seen for some time, "I know you had to share your mother with the world but, never forget that she loved you more than you can even imagine." I miss our times at Uncle Al's for Thanksgiving, my sister Stephanie does too. Although we were never close, just know that I knew you all when you were sweet, innocent little babies and you were so cute and lovable. I miss Grandma Hale and your grandmother Susie so much. You were so lucky to spend so much time with them. Aren't we all lucky to have had these strong, incredible women in our lives. Although I never had children, I am a school Principal now and I try my best to make a difference in the lives of all of the children I am fortunate enough to have in my life. Your mother did! Aunt Sue Sal, thanks for all you are and rest in peace that your life was a life well spent. Bravo, little indian girl!!!!!
--Laura Ann Hale
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