The invitation read:
Moscow Polo Club vs. Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club Exhibition Polo Match 5:00 pm followed by a Beluga Vodka Celebration.
Now who could resist an invitation like that! This was a fun relaxing event played on a field without grandstand so it was casual seating on chairs or grass — and that Beluga Vodka Celebration started before the match so it was an exceedingly relaxed event! They poured a lot of Beluga Vodka before this late afternoon event was over. There was no printed programs but I did spot friends Ken Barry and Wesley Ru playing for Santa Barbara and a very pretty young girl with long blonde ponytail was playing for Moscow along with her proud Russian father. Many young female Santa Barbara spectators showed no local loyalty it must be noted and were rooting for an exceedingly handsome young professional Argentine player on the Moscow team!
The Russians played and rode well, but Russians have always been great horsemen. After the fall of Czar Nicholas II in 1917 when the White Russians (Russians loyal to the Czar) fled the country they generally ended in Shanghai, China. It was the one place these stateless refugees without passports were accepted. It was very difficult for most of them to make a living. Men and women who in some cases had previously borne the titles of dukes or counts, duchesses or countesses owning palaces with hundreds of servants and serfs, found themselves working as taxi drivers, bus drivers, body guards for rich Chinese afraid of kidnapping, prostitutes, or doormen, waiters, chefs, entertainers in the many glamorous Russian cabarets found in the French Concession. From these night spots so popular with expat westerners came the sounds of Russian balalaikas playing mournful songs like Otchichornya as the towering White Russian doormen in full costume helped them out of their automobiles. Inside former Cossack officers performed wild saber-flashing whirling dances and groups of Russian gypsy violinists serenaded at their tables. Affluent members of Shanghai’s foreign community feasted on great bowls of finest caviar from Vladivostok and such Russian dishes as sturgeon pouched in liquid of dill pickles served with a sauce of Madeira and wild red cherries. They drank vast quantities of French champagne or chose from 40 kinds of vodka in these fabulous Russian cabarets.
However for many former cavalry officers in the Czar’s armies horses became their livelihood. These men became the riding instructors in Shanghai. If western or wealthy Chinese children were sent off with their amahs for riding lessons, it was from the super strict former Cossack officers they learned.
Kathleen Fetner, Technical Advisor and Friend