High Goal

After helping to establish the SMU Polo program in 2009, coach Tom Goodspeed watched last year’s women’s team compete in the regional finals and the men’s team battle at nationals.

By Jenn Thornton

When Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” he might as well have been talking about noted equestrian Tom Goodspeed, now coaching polo at Southern Methodist University.

After helping to establish the program in 2009, Goodspeed watched last year’s women’s team compete in the regional finals and the men’s team battle at nationals.These would be astonishing results for anyone else, except, perhaps, Goodspeed, who admits, “I’m more comfortable on a horse then I am on my own legs.” Having mounted his first horse at 11, a steed named Sam stabled at a farm in his hometown Milwaukee, Goodspeed is still unable to describe the magic of his first canter some 50 years later. However, recalling that boy, that time and that place produces in him thoughtful pause that gives way to steady pursuit while he regales with quiet, unsentimental affection the long-ago scene.

Delivering newspapers to pay for riding and polo lessons, Goodspeed fell in love with both and showed a natural aptitude for the sport that would come to define his professional life. He lived it, breathed it, and with mallet in hand, morphed into something of a field general, eventually winning two National Collegiate Championships in arena polo at the University of Connecticut, Arena Player of the Year honors and the distinction of being named one of polo’s highest handicapped players at nine goals.

He would go on to play polo professionally, win six Arena Opens and manage top equestrian facilities from New York to Hollywood (one being the star-studded Los Angeles Equestrian Center), all while producing a wildly successful series of DVDs called Polo Basics. Then came the four-year stint as Indiana’s Culver Academy men’s varsity polo coach that eventually led Goodspeed to SMU, and the startlingly quick ascension of its own program—one with unorthodox beginnings.

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