polo grounds coachella valley

Think of our Palm Springs Valley. Think of sun. And fun. Fun in the sun! Palm trees and pools are sure to come to mind. But, how about equines? Known for its luxurious communities and abundant golf courses, this oasis also has a rich equestrian history.

Long before the United States of America came into existence and the first Europeans set foot on the continent of North America, the Cahuilla people made the Coachella Valley their home. The introduction of horses by Europeans made transportation quicker for these resourceful Native Americans.

Today, the desert’s vastness and temperate climates still allow for excellent trail riding experiences. In existence for more than 60 years, Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs offers a variety of horseback rides into the spectacular Indian Canyons. Here, adventurers will have an opportunity to view seasonal wildflowers, streams and waterfalls. www.smoketreestables.com

Much like Palm Springs in its early heyday, the ranch which houses today’s La Quinta’s Tradition Golf Club attracted Hollywood stars, such as, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Kathryn Hepburn and many others. A photo of Rudolph Valentino riding horseback in front of the historic Hacienda del Gato can be seen in the entry hall.

Drive further east past white fences and horse sculptures to Griffin Ranch, the brainchild of late media mogul Merv Griffin. Encompassing some 200 acres, this guard-gated Spanish-style development has been revitalized by Lennar Homes. Merv Griffin raised Arabian horses and thoroughbreds at his 39-acre equestrian compound which included a racetrack and 16-stall stables.

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Located nearby in Indio, the Coachella Valley’s oldest city, is the fabulous Empire Polo Club. Established in 1987, it features 12 grass polo fields, a regulation-sized polo arena, 2 exercise tracks, stabling facilities/turnouts (pipe stalls, box stalls & tack rooms), Tack Room Tavern and Date Shed Night Club. The popular Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals are held here annually. From January 4 to March 29, Sunday Polo games are open to the general public. The first game begins at 12:00 p.m.; the featured match is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. General admission seating, including bleacher seats and field-side tailgate spots on the east side of the field, is free. Tables are available for groups with a reservation; cabanas & VIP areas for an additional charge. Reservations for these areas are recommended. Food and beverage service is available on site. www.empirepolo.com

No matter what thoughts our magnificent Palm Springs Valley may conjure up, think about making your own history at one of its many unique attractions!

~ Hilary Christiansen