In the beginning…
While it is known that polo was played in Victoria as early as the 19th century, the early history has been obscured by the sands of time, however from 1936-1940 the local club known as the Victoria Centaurs and later as the Victoria Polo Club played at Willows Race Track ( now Carnarvon Park). At that time, Victoria had three teams and Esquimalt and Duncan had two teams each, which permitted an active inter club match schedule.
The game drifted into obscurity during WW2 until 1961, when veterinarians Bill and Barbara Powell moved from Vancouver to Saanichton, where Bill, a dedicated 3 goal player, decided to reestablish polo on the Saanich Peninsula as the Vancouver Island Polo Club (VIPC). The Powells purchased an appropriate site on Puckle Road in Central Saanich. After blasting a rocky outcrop, a field was cleared, levelled and seeded with imported Bermuda grass known to provide the best footing. Ornamental poplar trees were planted, and an announcers stand, corrals and stabling, on which the roof was constructed to serve as a grandstand, were built and, naturally, facilities for tea making. A further purchase of land brought the total to approximately 40 acres and allowed for the addition of a practice field and horse pastures.
The advent of the VIPC was covered by the press, which prompted a lot of interest from residents including some players recently returned from India and Nigeria and two players from the prewar Victoria Club, so games began in earnest. These activities also attracted spectators, some of whom formed an active support group and contributed ‘goodies’ to the ‘after game’ teas which became a much enjoyed tradition.
The field on Puckle attracted teams from Yakima, Portland, Spokane, and Tacoma. A team usually left their horses at the club for two weeks and the players commuted for week end games. Tournaments and other events became a feature with individual players invited from the U.S.A., India, Pakistan, and England to complement the local teams on ponies provided by the Powells.
In addition to polo, a three way event including show jumping, dressage, and a cross country event was held annually on Thanksgiving weekends, and became very popular with local equestrians.
In 1969, a group of players decided to reestablish the Victoria Polo Club and for a few years played on a field on Michells farm. Club activities on Puckle Rd were suspended during that time, but later reopened at the request of the players resulting in the renewal of the VIPC tournaments and polo teas often with international players.
In 1992, two of the players, Steve Mann and Gordie Randall decided to build a field on Wallace Drive under the banner of the Victoria Polo Club. Subsequently, first class stabling, a practice field, a round pen, outdoor arena, and a welcoming clubhouse were added, which comprise the clubs premises today.
Play continued on Puckle during the development of the Wallace Drive facility, with both fields being used until the maintenance of two fields proved unwarranted following the passing of Bill Powell in 2003 at the age of 82. Following the closure of the Puckle Rd. field after 42 years, the VIPC was effectively merged with the new Victoria Polo Club, where the tradition of hospitality continues.
For additional information and perspective on our local love for Polo, visit Dan Pedrick’s page.