American Polo Pioneer
Sue Sally Hale
I was living down the street from Sal's polo place as a broke single mom of 3. She let my son ride for free by having him exercise the polo ponies. She also let him muck stalls for pay. My son was having a rough time back then; a 15yo. She mentioned that karate might really help him. I was never able to afford those karate lessons but never forgot Sal's wise words and kindness. My son ended up being very successful. Thanks Sal😍l
-- Christine Gorham
I just finished reading your book, “Polo’s Grand Dame, Sue Sally Hale”, which I enjoyed thoroughly. You will probably not remember me as when last we knew each other you and the whole crew were just kids riding around the farm in Carmel Valley like the wind on ponies and whatever semi-broke horses your mom ginned up for you. I worked for Sue Sally in 1976. She was a major influence in my riding career, and my life in general, as she was for so many. I was able to find you thanks to my dear friend, George Gilstrap who until recently was the owner of the Jackson Hole Polo Emporium Tack Shops in El Dorado and Santa Barbara. George introduced me to polo in 1972 when we lived in the Seattle area. We played out of the Tacoma Polo Club. That was before he moved to Indio and made polo his career.
At the time Sue Sally came into my life in 1976 I was taking a “career break” and living with my brother in the Carmel Valley. I was an avid tennis player and was playing at the CV Racquet Club. I passed by your farm every day on my way to the Club. I had been riding all of my life. I had a fairly strong background with horses as a polo player, riding show jumpers, and being a foxhunter. One day I decided to take a detour to your farm to see “what was going on up there”. I really missed being around horses. I drove in and was met by your mom. The next thing I knew I was working with her in a number of ways in exchange for riding. These included helping with marketing, riding green horses, (including the “infamous” mustangs), leading trail rides up into the hills, playing polo at the farm, at Pebble, and all over California. Your mom introduced me to Three Day Eventing, taught me dressage, (OMG!), and even had me take lessons from a French dressage instructor who she had teach at the farm. Before I knew it I was Eventing on her horses at Novice and Training Level, often on three different horses, in multiple divisions. We did Pebble Beach, Ram Tap, Concord, Heavenly Valley….the whole circuit. In typical Sue Sally fashion she had me doing things I really had no business taking on before I even knew what in the heck I was doing.
Through your mom I met Judy Ale, Kathy Frisbie Mill and her husband Jeff who was a farrier and polo player. At the time they were partners in running the riding program at the Kennolyn Equestrian Center in Soquel. As it turned out they offered me a position as a full-partner in their riding program. It was a difficult choice to make as I loved working, riding, and playing polo with Sue Sal. In her true style she encouraged me to take the offer, which I ultimately did, not without some sadness.
I returned to Seattle in 1978 to return to my “full-time” career. In 1982 I was transferred to Dallas. I brought my Event horses to a facility called Las Colinas, and later moved to Willow Bend Polo and Hunt Club. I hadn’t played polo since leaving California in 1978, and didn’t while at Willow Bend. Having dropped out of polo I had no idea that Sue Sally had been at Willow Bend a few years earlier. I continued on in Eventing and, showing jumpers. In 1987 I started playing polo again out of the Oak Grove Polo Club in Decatur, Texas. It is a low profile, laid-back polo club founded, owned and run by Barbara Branson a generous, excellent all-around horse-woman. Like Sue Sal she had to make her way among the male players, which she did indeed. And like Sue Sal, on the polo field she was a force to be reckoned with. Now in her late 70’s she is still playing.
In 1993 a team from Oak Grove, on which I played, won the Players Cup at Willow Bend. At the time Willow Bend was known for being the home club for most of the Texas-based high goal players. Many of these “men” are mentioned in your book. Blowing in to Willow Bend and winning that tournament was very Sue-Sally-Hale-like…. Not that our team didn’t have good players, but we were all on homemade horses, no pretense, just “ride like hell, and stay out of our way”. There’s much more to tell but I didn’t intend for this message to be about me, it just happens that Sue Sally figured so prominently in my life with horses that I had to fill in some of the blanks.
Well, that’s about enough. I just couldn’t resist congratulating you on your book, and thanking you for bringing a bit of Sue Sally Hale back into my life. Her passing hit me like a brick, as did Sunny’s. You were just kids……and I was a much younger man. I will be forever be indebted to your mom.
My best to you and all the Hales.
--S. Scot Litke”