I saw signs announcing polo matches on Sundays at the Las Colinas Equestrian Center as I drove by one day, so I decided I ought to stop in and see what it was all about. That fortuitous move was the beginning of an extremely enjoyable period of my life in which I have learned much about the sport of polo. In addition, I have had the pleasure of meeting a group of people who are very nice, and very willing to teach newcomers about polo. My thanks go out to each and every one of you who took a moment (or more) to enlighten me about some aspect of the sport.
In this, my first writing about polo, I will try to give a general overview of the sport. In future installments, I will concentrate upon different aspects of the sport in general, and the Las Colinas Polo Club (LCPC) specifically.
Most people could describe the basic object of polo--as with many other sports, the object is for members of one team to hit the ball through the goal of the opposing team. Polo is special because it requires teamwork, not just between members of the team, but between the polo player and his mount. The intricacy increases when you realize that a player does not use one mount through the whole game, but rather, switches mounts between each period or chukker. Each team is comprised of four players that play 6 chukkers, lasting 7 minutes each. The play is fast-paced, and the timing of a chukker is stopped only for time-outs called by an umpire or player. This is very tiring for even a fit horse, and so players generally would like to play a fresh horse each chukker.
The horses used for polo are almost always Thoroughbreds, as they require the stamina and speed required to be competitive in the game. Many times, prospective polo mounts are found to come from the racing environment--horses that aren't fast enough to make it on the track, or better yet, horses that just don't particularly like racing. Argentinian-breds are popular since there are many horses bred specifically for polo there. The best polo mounts are fast and courageous, yet still maintain the good disposition required for the conditions.
The players themselves carry a handicap , or "goal" rating assigned by the United States Polo Association (USPA). This handicap ranges from a low of -2 to the highest rating, 10. This rating gives a relative index of the player's ability. The combination of the goal ratings of each player makes up the handicap of the team. If the handicap of the opposing teams is not identical, points are given to the lower rated team before the start of the match so that each team starts on "equal" footing. Thus, if a 10 goal team was facing a 9 goal team, the 9 goal team would start the match with one point on the scoreboard.
I will expound upon the rules of the game more in a future installment.
The Running Horse (http://www.isd1.com/)