by HANNAH BROADBENT
“If you’ve never been at a polo event, never heard the pounding of the hooves – it’s unbelievable, you’re in awe,” said Freedom Farm founder Susie Bjorklund.
Saturday, September 9, is Freedom Farm’s 10th annual polo event. The event is a fundraiser for the farm, which is a therapeutic riding center.
Seventeen years ago Bjorklund opened her outdoor riding space to kids with special needs. Now, she has an insulated indoor arena and the farm has programs for vets, at-risk teenagers and those recovering from strokes. The farm now has 75 riders and 150 volunteers.
For the first time this year she opened Freedom Farm Academy, a partnership with Watertown Mayer Schools and Southwest Metro Intermediate to offer classes to students in need.
“It started as us trying to find a fundraiser that was fun and would go along with what we do,” she said. “What we do is so expensive, the polo event is crucial for us to keep our costs the same for the last ten years.”
This year the fundraiser is a bit different, it includes Horses and Horsepower. Exotic cars and a spotlight polo match along with craft shows, food and a silent auction make up the event. Bjorklund said they are hoping the addition of the car show will raise the attendance. They are expecting about 2,000 attendees this year.
“We count on this for so many things and our programs,” she said. “Players are being flown in and their heart is just so for freedom farm and it’s purpose.”
Players are not the only people whose heart is for Freedom Farm. The riders and parents who double as volunteers are dedicated to the farm. Christine Mattson’s daughter Allie has been a rider for 11 years. Mattson said it has done wonders for her daughter.
“She’s a lot more confidence in herself and in getting answers from people,” Mattson said.
Allie has Apraxia, a motor speech disorder. Mattson said she can have trouble getting words out or it can take longer than usual. She said Bjorklund is wonderful with her daughter. She said Bjorklund has patience while teaching commands and speaks clearly and concisely with Allie.
“Allie takes great pride in telling people she’s a rider out there, and she so looks forward to this event,” Mattson said.
The riders are present at the event, and meet everyone that they can who attends. Mattson said the riders are always excited to be showcased at the event, saying it makes them feel like a professional celebrity.
Mattson said it’s good for her daughter to attend the event and know she’s important but to help clean up after as well and know what work is put into it.
“I wish people can come and experience this, you always leave with a good feeling in your heart,” Mattson said. “Also, not many people get to learn about polo.”
The event goes from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the polo match at 12:30. Tickets will be available at the door.
Bjorklund assures that the event has something for everyone.
“If you want to dress up and have a glass of champagne or want to bring kids for face painting and pony rides, it’s perfect,” she said.
Go to www.freedomfarm.org to learn more and http://www.jaguarminnesota.com/event/horses-and-horsepower-at-the-polo-match to learn more about Horses and Horsepower.