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Harvest Cup Polo Classic

THE GAME OF KINGS by Stacey Paretti Rase

IMAGINE A BLOODY SPORT played in the Middle Ages by Genghis Kahn and his warriors in which players rode atop very short horses and scored points by reaching down to scoop up their enemies’ decapitated heads from the ground and pitching them through goal posts. Doesn’t sound very polished or dignified now, does it? Yet these barbaric acts of nomad warriors over two thousand years ago are thought to be the origin of the highly sophisticated sport of polo that we continue to enjoy today. Polo is said to be the oldest organized sport in the world, as the first recorded polo tournament was in 600 B.C. when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a public match. The game spread quickly across the eastern world and took hold in India, which is still referred to as the “cradle of modern polo.” The British cavalry drew up the earliest rules of the game in the 1850s, firmly establishing the game in England. The sport, which came to be known as “the game of kings,” was brought to the United States by James Gordon Bennett, an American publisher and adventurer who was captivated by it and introduced it in New York in 1876. Its popularity in the United States exploded over the next 50 years as it became an Olympic sport and drew crowds of more than 30,000 at matches played at the historic Meadow Brook Polo Club on Long Island. At present, there are an estimated 250 United States Polo Association member clubs, with more than 4,500 players. Polo Basics Polo is played on a 10-acre grass field, 300 yards in length by 160 yards, which is the approximate area of 10 football fields. Goal posts are set eight yards apart on either end of the field. The


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object of the game is to move the ball downfield, hitting the ball through the goal for a score. Teams change direction after each goal. Two teams, made up of four players each, are designated by shirt color. The mallet, made of a bamboo shaft with a hardwood head, is the instrument used to hit the polo ball. Formerly wood, now plastic, the ball is about three inches in diameter and three-to-four ounces in weight. During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called “divot stomping,” which helps replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses’ hooves. There are six periods, or chukkers, in a match, each seven minutes long. Play begins with a throwin of the ball by the umpire at the opening of each chukker and after each goal. Only penalties or injuries may stop play, as there are no time-outs or substitutions allowed, except for tack repair. The four basic shots in polo are distinguished by the side of the pony on which strokes or shots are made: “near side,” left side of the mount and “off-side,” right side. This creates the near-side forward and back shots and the off-side forward and back shots. Variations of the basic shots can be made under the pony’s neck, across his tail or under the belly, which is difficult. A team is made up of four players, each wearing a jersey with numbers 1 to 4, which correspond to their assigned positions. Number 1 is the most

Profile for Inside Publications

September-October 2019 Issue of Inside Northside Magazine  

September-October 2019 Issue of Inside Northside Magazine