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Take Me Out to a Polo Game

Yesterday we went to a Polo game.

Where can you see a Polo game nowadays? When I googled the term, I got a lot of results for Ralph Lauren, shirts, and lots of Water Polo. But Polo itself didn’t even rank. I finally found the site for the United States Polo Association, which provides information about the sport. One of the places where there is an active Polo club is our home of San Diego.

I am not a horse person, or a rider. And I don’t aspire to be one, either. But experiencing eight horses thunder by me in a full gallop gave me shivers of awe.

Besides the horses and the games, the event itself is a spectacle. People come all dressed up, ladies in heels and all white dresses (it was the day of the “White Party”). The sponsor was the local Jaguar dealer who drove few shiny white cars on the field with six figure price tags. The glossy program magazine carries ads for corporate jets and yachts. You buy wine in an ice bucket with real glasses; the tables are covered with white table-cloths and protected by umbrellas. And there is gourmet food, of course.

Like in many sports in Polo it is very difficult to take meaningful photographs. Things happen very fast and usually you are not ready when the action occurs. You blink and you miss it. Trisha did a good job with her point-and-shoot.

This is a good example of where the picture does not do the action justice. These horses were galloping by like the wind. There were others before them and after them. The only way you can tell how amazing this was is to count the number of feet on the ground. A careful examination of the two horses in this picture reveals that out of eight feet, only one touched the ground when this picture was taken (the left front of the second horse). These beasts were flying.

Each team has four players, and the object of the game is to slap the little ball with the mallet through goal posts on either side of the field. The field is nine times a regular football field, three times as long and three times as wide. A game consists of six “chukkers” where each lasts for seven and a half minutes. Between chukkers, horses are switched out, which takes about four minutes. Then there is a half-time of 15 minutes. That makes a game about an hour and a half long.

Polo teams, like most sports teams, must travel for games. One of the teams we watched was from Hawaii. And here is the amazing part. Each player needs at least six horses, since a horse can only take one chukker. So they bring seven, sometimes nine horses, since the horses are not always in the mood to play ball. These are thoroughbreds, trained especially for the game. So to be a polo player, you need to own at least seven horses, and travel with them. That is air travel. Then you need to board them at the destination. While the game is going on (remember eight players on the field, four in each team), there are eight horses in the game and 48 more horses on the sidelines waiting to play. Besides the horses themselves, there are keepers that take care of the horses, saddle them, wrap their legs, braid their tails. The cost of this sport must be staggering.

This was a completely enjoyable, entirely different kind of outing. The tickets are surprisingly inexpensive. General admission is $12. We got Groupon deals for two for $10.

Polo is awesome.

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