'Sport of kings' returns to Fort McPherson Saturday
Gen. George Patton leads a group of other Soldiers on horseback in this historical photograph. Patton was an avid polo player.

The thundering of horses' hooves pounding the grassy turf, followed by the sharp crack of wood smacking hard plastic hasn't resounded from Fort McPherson's Hedekin Field since 1981.

May 16, Armed Forces Day, the "sport of kings," as it's sometimes called, will once more be on display at the sprawling parade field most noted for change of command and retirement ceremonies.

That sport is polo and the match, sponsored by U.S. Army Garrison and the Chastain Horse Park, is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m.

Chastain's president, Amy Lance, said she requested an opportunity to hold the game at Hedekin Field because of the history the U.S. Army has with the sport.

Lance said she had heard of former Soldiers who were enthusiastic about the sport.

"Early in this century, Gen. John J. Pershing persuaded the U.S. Army to include polo as part of its training of cavalrymen," wrote Donna Morris in writing for "Cigar Aficianado."

One of Pershing's more famous aides, George S. Patton Jr., was an avid polo player during the military lull between World Wars I and II, according to Carlo D'Este, a Patton biographer.

It was during that period in history that polo matches were regular fair at Fort McPherson.

Capt. David Drew Hedekin, for whom the field is named, was the Fort McPherson commander from 1936 until his tragic death at a Fort Oglethorpe polo tournament in 1938.

Ironically, Chastain Horse Park is dedicated to hippotherapy, which uses horses in therapeutic programs to treat traumatic injuries.

"Chastain Horse Park partners with servicemen and -women with blast-related injuries that have caused significant trauma to the brain or spinal cord," said Lance, who began riding as a child. "When riding, the movement of the horse replicates the rhythm and pace of walking for those who use wheelchairs for mobility, providing benefit to respiration, trunk strength, balance and muscle tone.

"These servicemen and -women say that it is a wonderful experience to relax with their Families at the park after months of intensive treatment in a catastrophic care setting."

Lance said Chastain became a part of the "Horses for Heroes" therapy program in September 2008.

"These men and women gave of themselves to protect our freedoms," said Lance. "Chastain Horse Park reaches out to give back a sense of freedom, whether on the back of a horse or simply by sharing an outdoor setting surrounded by beautiful animals."

Lance said Chastain has assisted approximately 50 Soldiers to date.

Winston Churchill said, Aca,!A"ThereAca,!a,,cs nothing better for the insides of a man than the outsides of a horse.Aca,!A?

But Lance prefers to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: Aca,!A"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.Aca,!A?


The polo match is free and open to military personnel, Civilian employees and their Families. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs to watch the match. Spectators will view the event from the Staff Row side of the parade ground.

There will be no rain date for the event.

Page last updated Fri May 15th, 2009 at 12:40