To see horses in rural Arizona surely is no surprise. But polo ponies? I’d have never guessed this small ranching community located 20 miles southwest of Prescott would be the home of the Skull Valley Polo Club.
Indeed, the Van Dickson Ranch, owned by C. Paul and Carolyn Harris, is the site for polo lessons, scrimmages, matches and tournaments of the Skull Valley Polo Club. Carolyn explained they are not the first owners of this ranch to keep polo ponies. The ranch’s original owner, John “Van” Dickson, raised horses in the early 1900s. Not only was Van Dickson a rancher; he was also known as a world class rodeo champion and a friend of early film cowboy Tom Mix. According to Carolyn, Van Dickson raised and trained polo ponies which were leased to famous cowboy-humorist-polo lover Will Rogers.
Skull Valley Polo Club at Van Dickson Ranch offers lessons and hosts tournaments from spring until early fall. It also provides a casual polo environment for seniors who want to keep playing, amateurs who like to play for fun, and even professionals who want a field for a relaxing game or to train new ponies. In addition, the high country polo field gives polo players from the Valley an option for summertime participation. The club was featured in the January 2011 issue of Polo Players’ Edition, a national polo sports magazine, and more recently in the local media — on the Prescott Daily Courier’s website.
But Van Dickson Ranch is known for more than the site of Skull Valley Polo Club. It has also become a popular venue for weddings, retreats, large parties and family reunions. The 600 by 250-foot polo field transforms into a event site with large tents, white-cloth covered tables, and food service. The Harris’s back yard — a tree-lined, green-grass grove makes a close-to-nature setting for outdoor western-themed weddings. On some summer Saturdays a polo match may occupy the field at morning then it’s prepped for a wedding reception in the afternoon or evening. The Harrises are also able to offer full catering services. As former Texans, they probably know how to put on a pretty good barbecue.
We made a visit to Van Dickson Ranch earlier this month. On our visit, the ranch house was surrounded by cottonwood, oak and walnut trees, still decked in fall foliage. It was a perfect picture of Arizona in autumn. Van Dickson Ranch really is a versatile venue — for a western-style wedding or a polo tournament. To Paul and Carolyn Harris, it’s also “home.”
Bio: One of Nancy Garrett’s favorite journalism jobs was as writer-editor-photographer for an Arizona travel magazine. She hopes to develop that same sense of passion with her blog, AZGetawayTravel, where she writes about her travel experiences, travel tips, recommended destinations, lodging and restaurants. She also shares travel deals. Destinations and evaluations are based solely on personal preferences. No free lodging, food or other gifts are accepted in association with her entries.
Garrett, an Ohio native, moved to Arizona in 1978 and has lived in Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Show Low. She attended graduate school at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She and her husband have traveled throughout the United States and to Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas.