Marco! Thankfully Karen does not openly voice all her thoughts, but you know this is what she wanted to call out at our first polo event. And people call me the crazy one.
Ever been to a polo event? Pretty cool! And you won’t see this game on the Olympics. We have been to a steeplechase (see ATL Steeplechase) but this was our first polo event. There are probably many ways to go to a polo event – we went the Friday night, under the lights, pickup truck, tailgating, bring-a-cold-beer, chips-and-salsa, folding chairs, giddy up route. Upwardly mobile and yet so declasse. “Pool, pond, pool-pond. Pond would be good for you” (Caddy Shack). Cold beers or champagne and candelabras: all good here.
I think the Friday night crowd is a little less refined than say the Sunday afternoon crowd, but then, whatever. We had fun, and so did everyone else around us.
This was the Empire Polo Club, in Indio, CA – just a few miles south of Palm Springs, where we were camped at Outdoor Resorts. With 250 acres of polo fields, beautiful rose gardens and facilities; this place is pretty special, and beautifully maintained.
You can tell this is the land of the well-heeled as you look around – gorgeous cars, white linen…
The field of play, as I mentioned, is played on a traditional polo field, and in this case is in a most beautiful setting!
If you are not familiar, polo is played on a field about the size of three football fields or six soccer fields, with two teams of four players, sitting atop polo ponies. The ponies are gorgeous by the way, and while called ponies they are in fact horses. Saddles are English-style, almost like jumping saddles.
The game begins, kind of like hockey, when an umpire drops the ball amidst the players – let the game begin!
The goal of the match, as you might surmise, is to hit the hard, white ball, with a long-handled mallet, on horseback, in between two goal posts more often than your competing team. There are six 7-minute periods, known in polo parlance as chukkas or chukkers. Regardless, the booth announcers keep you informed throughout the match.
At half time, attendees (yes, you) come out on the field to perform a “divot stomp”, essentially performing a man-made Zamboni to even out the field from divots the horses make as they turn and charge down the field. Oh, and they are animals, so watch where you step. But there is an app for that.
It has been said that polo dates back to around 600 BC – even older than I am. Like you might expect, there are umpires who also ride, and enforce the rules of polo – largely surrounding the concept of “line of the ball”, which means an opposing rider has certain restrictions defensively as it relates to the direction the ball is heading.
I decided at one point it would be cool to view the riders and the action as they approach the goal posts, and so stood behind the goal judge. The goal judge raises a flag to the booth when the ball goes between the posts. Remember, this field is about three football fields long, so binoculars would be a good idea.
What you may not appreciate, standing behind the goal, is what it looks like when 8 players, flying down the field on thousand pound polo ponies with mallets, hitting a 3 inch diameter, hard white ball directly at you feels like. I can attest – more than a little intimidating! Holy crap! The goal judge wears no protective gear other than a good pair of eyes and the ability to side-step a line drive hit and potentially eight thousand pound galloping ponies.
So if you are looking for something different to do, go find a polo match! By the way, chap, might you spare some Grey Poupon?