The two most over-used clichés in polo are:

“The sport of kings is still the king of sports”

and

“Your polo handicap is your passport to the world.”

Grimm added that, “Polo is a noble sport and a sport in which you can make friends easily. It is a noble sport as we should play it with a noble spirit on noble animals, of which horses may be the finest examples.”  A spectator really has little idea of 32 mph on the back of a four-legged animal, being chased by 28 other legs really feels like, nor how true it is that a polo handicap really is a passport to the world.

If you have never held a polo handicap you can only guess how many doors this really opens. About two-thirds of the rated players carry a rating of 2-goals or less; few ever advance beyond 3-goals. Rating of 5-goals and above usually belong to professional players.  Since the inception of the system in 1890, less than 50 players have ever been awarded a perfect handicap of 10-goals. At the present time, there are 11 active 10-goalers registered with the United States Polo Association.  The rest of us are pure mortals, but unlike other sports, handicapping allows and, in fact, encourages teams of mortals to play with the pros and the gods.

There is nothing to compare the sport of polo to, not even among the other horse sports nearly all of which we have tried and a few which we have loved such as fox-hunting, eventing and show-jumping, but we should remember, as Lawrence Phipps, II, often would say, “Polo is a game, fox-hunting is a sport, never confuse the two.”  Fox-hunting is our sport, but polo is our game.

People who have never been to a polo match often imagine the game something like croquet on horseback and are amazed to find the game at 30 mph.   The field is actually 9 football fields at 300 yards by 160 yards.  Four mounted players make up a team and the mallet is held in the right hand.   The objective is to hit the ball (3 1/2″ in diameter) through a goal 8 yards wide and to prevent opponents from doing the same on the opposite end of the field, which changes with each goal.   The play begins at the line-up at center-field.  When the ball goes over the sidelines a throw in happens and in some cases a knock-in happens from the ed of the field.   A polo match is divided into four or six periods called “chukkers.”  Each consists  of 7 1/2 minutes of play.  Most players require a fresh horse for each chukker and, some professionals, switch in the middle of a chukker for a fresh pony. At higher levels, this means 12 ponies for a single match per player.  the line of the ball creates the right of way and each player is designated a position from 1-4, which is fluid throughout the match, depending upon position, much like hockey.  Polo was one the sport of kings played by wealthy, classes, but now players come from different backgrounds and occupations.  Women make up the fastest growing segment of polo today.  Some players are professionals who make a living playing, teaching or selling polo ponies.  Others are dedicated ametauers who spend mcuh time playng after work.   They are all committed to a passion for horses, a shared commitment of the sport, and a love for gave, which is like no other on earth.

General play calls for not letting up unless there is a whistle, keeping your eye on the ball, not dribbling and taking a full swing whenever possible,  and playing your man. The art of team polo is to create situations that results in goals.   The players should interchange positions freely, depending upon the situation.

According to the USPA, “Polo is considered the oldest team sport in known history. Historians have conjectured the sport originated in either Persia or amongst other tribes of Central Asia as far back as 600 BC as a way to prepare young leaders for the rigors of war. James Gordon Bennett, a wealthy New York publisher, is credited with bringing polo to the US from England in 1876. At that time, the game was quite different than the one played today, with eight or more players per side and matches lasting an entire afternoon. In 1890 the Polo Association, now the United States Polo Association was established in New York City, with seven clubs joining and over 100 handicaps assigned to members, including future President Teddy Roosevelt.  Today, the USPA includes 270 member clubs in 13 geographic circuits around the United States and oversees 40 national tournaments.”

Some of our favorite players, some of which we have been been blessed to play with and others we just hope to play with someday or enjoy watching play, are:

  • Tommy Hitchcock, Jr. (11990-1994) was a legendary great
  • Adolpho Cambiaso
  • Pelon Stirling
  • Jose Lezcano
  • Santiago “Topo” Mendez
  • Mariano Gutierrez
  • Robert Jornayvaz III
  • Robert Jornayvaz IV
  • Rick Lontin
  • Erica Gandomcar
  • Christian Moon
  • Tom Wisehart
  • Bob Nooney
  • Bobby Koehler
  • Santiago Wulff
  • Agustin Botaro
  • Agustin Wulff
  • Gonzalo Siles
  • Ernesto Ezcurra
  • Mark Wates
  • Craig Russell
  • Santi Torres
  • Roberto Zedda
  • Melissa Ganzi
  • Marc Ganzi
  • Grant Ganzi
  • Juan Bollini
  • Juancito Bollini
  • Martin Harriague

Our favorite teams are La Dolphina, Black Watch, Crab Orchard, Valiente, Audi, Piaget, R&L Farms Polo Club, Denver Polo Club, La Patrona and  Equipage.

Some of the polo clubs we have been fortunate enough to play at or visit are:

Searching for USPA polo player handicaps.  

Polo Tips & Tricks:  One of our favorite tips and tricks for caring for polo ponies is supplementing their feed with BlueLite and SandClearAnother is this great article on legging up and Polo Pony Exercise by DPC.