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A team sport played on horseback

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A terrific way to spend a lazy summer afternoon!

  • Jun 10, 2009
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It has been called "the sport of kings".  Never in my wildest dreams growing up in a blue collar neighborhood in Cranston, RI  did I ever think that one day I would be attending polo matches on a regular basis.   It all began several years ago when my wife and I agreed to tag along on a family outing to  "The Newport International Polo Series" at a place called Glen Farm in Portsmouth, RI which is just a few miles outside of the legendary resort city of Newport.   I must say that I was not particularly thrilled with the idea.  Well,  to make a long story short my wife and I fell in love with polo that day and have been attending these matches several times each summer ever since.   The matches are held on late Saturday afternoons  from June through September and have become increasingly popular over the years with both the locals and the tourists who flock to Newport each summer from all over the world.  We have introduced polo to a number of friends and relatives over the years and every single person we have brought to Glen Farm positively loves it!   While we still do not understand all of the rules we always have a great time at the matches.  We generally arrive early (the gates open at 3:00 P.M.) and leave at dusk long after the match has ended.   Admission is just $10.00 for adults and children under the age of 15 are admitted free making it extremely affordable family entertainment.  While there is a grandstand most folks opt to park around the perimeter of the 300 yard long field.  You are allowed to bring food and drink and most people opt to tailgate both before and after the match.

For those who have never been to a polo match a brief description of the game is in order.

Field polo requires two teams of 4 players.  A full-size field is 300 yards long, and either 200 yards or 160 yards wide if there are side boards—these are generally 6" high. There are tall collapsable goalposts at each end of the field spread 8 yards apart.  The object of the game is to score the most goals by hitting the ball through the goal.  Ends are changed after a goal is scored. 

The game consists of six 7 minute chukkas, between or during which players change mounts. At the end of each 7 minute chukka, play continues for an additional 30 seconds or until a stoppage in play, whichever comes first. There is a four minute interval between chukkas and a ten minute halftime.  Play is continuous and is only stopped for penalties, broken tack (equipment) or injury to horse or player.  The object is to score goals by hitting the ball between the goal posts, no matter how high in the air.  If the ball goes wide of the goal, the defending team is allowed a free 'knock-in' from the place where the ball crossed the goal line, thus getting the ball back into play.

Hopefully, this will give you some idea of how the game is played.  As I indicated earlier I have still not managed to figure out all of the rules.  But no matter.  The game of polo is a colorful spectacle unlike anything that I had ever seen before.   I must tell you that the sight of eight horses charging down the field at full speed is thrilling.   It also a refreshing departure from professional sports where all of the talk seems to be about contracts, huge egos and money.  There are no multi-million dollar contracts here.   For most of the players this is nothing more than a weekend hobby. 

Over the course of the summer "The Newport International Polo Series" features matches with teams from all over the world.  I am not sure how it is at other locales around the country but the folks at Glen Farm and the Newport Polo Club who sponsers these matches go out of their way to make this a family friendly event. It is wonderful to see people of all ages and economic circumstances enjoying the matches together.  If you are looking for something different to do this summer I strongly urge you to consider polo. You just might fall in love with it the way I did. Very highly recommended!
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May 31, 2010
Great review and cool topic! I've never had a chance to go to a Polo match, but after reading your outstanding review, I'm inspired to! Thanks for sharing this. What a unique hobby to have!
June 11, 2009
I've never been but, would love to check it out one of these days, definitely on my to-do list! So you said the players change mounts during or between the chukkas, which I'm assuming is Polo's term for quarters- how do they do that? This was such an intriguing review and made me want to bump Polo up on my list! Thanks!
June 10, 2009
Hi Paul: I'm commenting on this review because I've attended Polo matches here in St. Louis myself. A friend of mine invited me years ago and like you, I fell in love with this game.......as you say, it is truly thrilling to see eight horses charging down the field. Good job!
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Polo is thought to have originated in China and Persia around 2,000 years ago. The name of the game may well come from the word "pholo" meaning 'ball' or 'ballgame' in the Balti language of Tibet.

The first recorded game took place in 600BC between the Turkomans and Persians (the Turkomans won). In the fourth century AD, King Sapoor II of Persia learned to play, aged seven. In the 16th century, a polo ground (300 yards long and with goalposts eight yards apart) was built at Ispahan, then the capital, by Shah Abbas the Great.

The Moguls were largely responsible for taking the game from Persia to the east and, by the 16th century, the Emperor Babur had established it in India. (It had already long been played in China and Japan, but had died out by the time the West came in contact with those countries). In the 1850s, British tea planters discovered the game in Manipur (Munipoor) on the Burmese border with India. They founded the world's first polo club at Silchar, west of Manipur. Other clubs followed and today the oldest in the world is the Calcutta Club which founded in 1862.

Malta followed in 1868 because soldiers and naval officers stopped off there on their way home from India. In 1869, Edward "Chicken" Hartopp, of the 10th Hussars, read an account of the game in The Field magazine while stationed at Aldershot and, with fellow officers, organised the first game. Then known as "hockey on horseback," it was played on a hastily-rolled Hounslow Heath where a shortlist of ...

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