Polo across the river in Aiken is much like Augusta’s love of golf.
Those involved in the majestic world of polo live and breathe the sport, while deeply care for and honor the thoroughbred horses they ride.
They knew it was one of their own. And, in fact, it was.
William Tankard, 31, of Aiken was tragically killed along with three thoroughbred horses and his dog on Interstate 76 in Ohio on July 30.
Seven other horses were miraculously pulled from the trailer Tankard was hauling and were taken to a nearby farm to be examined by a veterinarian, according to news reports from Ohio.
While the death of anyone involved in Aiken’s horse community would be a tragedy, Tankard was well known, not only in the local area, but nationwide.
Tankard was a 3 goal professional polo player and member of Team USPA (United States Polo Association) who had been playing the sport for more than 20 years.
“The polo community mourns the loss of Will Tankard, 31, of Aiken, South Carolina,” the USPA announced this past week. “Will died tragically along with his loyal companion Chewy and three of his horses in a traffic accident in Ohio while traveling from Lexington, Kentucky to Darlington, Pennsylvania.”
The USPA said he was not just an astonishing player, but an outstanding human being.
“Will was not only a face of polo in this country but he was also its heart and soul,” the USPA stated. “He was a true horseman and gentleman who set a wonderful example to our youth and was an inspiration to adults as well.”
Tankard was a founding member of Team USPA, 2002 & 2003 National Interscholastic Champion, 2006 National Intercollegiate Champion, 2012 & 2013 winner of the National Copper Cup, 2013 winner of the National Chairman’s Cup and a member of the 2015 team that competed in the finals of the Federation of International Polo World Championship.
“Beyond his accomplishments on the field, Will was a genuine, passionate and caring human being who found his way into the heart of our polo family,” USPA stated.
About five years ago, Tankard moved to Aiken from Texas, eventually purchased a farm and began raising horses. He immediately became a staple in Aiken’s horse community.
In March of 2015, he was an alternate for the team that won the silver medal at the International Cup in Santiago, Chile.
The USPA’s Facebook page was flooded with condolences for the Tankard family and the entire polo community.
A celebration of his life is being planned for October in Aiken, while the north Texas community where he grew up is having a celebration this Saturday for “William Tankard, a truly shinning bright star and a True Son of Polo,” the announcement states.
“We will have a main course catered dinner, drinks, and pot luck sides as well as A/C coolers in the barn to keep the heat down, good guest speakers, as well as great story’s with old friendships and music in the barn to keep the mood up,” the invitation states. “We will have a simple and brief sunset honorary ceremony field side. This is our time and opportunity to come together in north Texas, to show our respects and to honor Will and all who loved him… Many of Will’s teammates and good pals from Texas Tech, including his coach will be in attendance to remember their friend and to help host and celebrate his life.”
The end of the invitation states, “This is a community effort for a community occasion.”
This was a tragic death that hit many in Aiken community, and around the country, extremely hard.
It was more than an Aiken man, a dog and three horses that this community lost in traffic accident in Ohio.
It was even much more than a professional polo player.
It was Will Tankard, his companion, Chewy, and three of his beloved polo ponies.
He shall be remembered.
In memory of Will Tankard, the family requests that all donations be made to the American International Polo Foundation for the care of the horses and other expenses. Information on how to donate can be found at uspolo.org/news/1/will-tankard.