Polo. From the battlefield to the sporting arena.
When I’m galloping around the polo field, making decisions about the game, the play, the pony and my attempt at hitting the ball, I can’t but help think how well this game is suited to training for battle on horseback.
No doubt that was the intention of it’s creators.
A game a polo is played at a fast pace with four players on each team. There are strict rules established to protect horse and rider, but never the less there is quite a lot of contact (within the rules) between horses and riders.
Riders hold the reins with one hand and the mallet with the other, and often hang quite far out of the saddle on each side of the horse in order to hit the ball.
Because of the speed of the game and the need to control the horse and the speed of the ball when hit, the player must be making very quick decisions. This is especially hard for new players and there is a lot to think about in any one moment, let alone remembering the required technique to hit the ball whilst steering the horse.
Very few people actually achieve any sort of decent handicap in polo, especially at an amateur level. The handicap ranges from -2 to 10 with -2 the worst and 10 the best. There are not that many 10s in the world and none in Australia. Some players are semi professional even with a handicap of 2, in that they are paid by someone to play in a game. Most amateur players are around 0 or 1.
Most players at all levels will say that 80% of the game is the skill and ability of the horse. So horse quality, horsemanship and riding ability carries a lot of weight towards being able to play well.
It is very exciting once it all comes together and because it involves sporting horses it is very rewarding as the interaction and involvement with the horses takes hours a day, even if the game lasts just 45 minutes.