Polo is an equestrian sport played on horseback between two teams of four players each who use mallets with long, flexible handles to drive a wooden ball down a grass field and between two goal posts. It is the oldest of equestrian sports, with its origins tracing back to the 6th century BC in Persia.
The game is played in several periods called chukkas (from the Urdu word: chakkar which means “all”). Each chukka lasts 7 minutes and 30 seconds, and there are usually 6 to 8 chukkas in a game. The players have 3 minutes of rest between each chukka and a 5 minute break at half-time.
The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. A goal is scored when the ball passes through the opposing team's goal posts. The ball can be hit with the mallet in any direction, and players are allowed to hit the ball out of the air.
Polo is a physically demanding sport that requires a high level of horsemanship, agility, and teamwork. It is also a very expensive sport, as the horses and equipment are very costly.
There are two main types of polo: field polo and arena polo. Field polo is played on a large grass field, while arena polo is played on a smaller, enclosed field. Arena polo is a faster-paced game than field polo, and it is often seen as a more spectator-friendly version of the sport.
Polo is a popular sport in many countries around the world, including Argentina, India, Pakistan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. It is also an Olympic sport, and it has been included in the Summer Olympics since 1900.
Here are some of the equipment used in polo:
- Mallet: A long, wooden stick with a flat head that is used to hit the ball.
- Helmet: A protective helmet that is worn to protect the rider's head from injury.
- Shirt: A brightly colored shirt that is worn to identify the player's team.
- Riding boots: Sturdy boots that are worn to protect the rider's feet and ankles.
- White trousers: White trousers that are worn to provide contrast with the ball.
- Optional equipment: Kneepads, face mask, whip, and gloves.
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Racehorse California Chrome meets Polo Player Nic Roldan
Two Top American Champions Meet
Champion American Racehorse California Chrome and Champion American Polo Player and captain of the US Polo team Nic Roldan stood next to each other at Gulfstream only a few days before the Pegasus World Cup
Nikki Walker, granddaughter of Gulfstream Park owner Frank Stronach, is an advisory board member of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and an accomplished equestrian, was also present. Fan favourite professional polo player Kris Kampsen, who also specializes in retraining OTTBs (Off-the-Track Thoroughbreds) to polo, was also in attendance. Additional Polo Players: Julian de Lusaretta, Luchino Ortiz de Urbina & Mia Cambiaso, and Polo Pony trainer Martin Phagouape.
Nic watched California Chrome train and then had a “meet & greet” with him afterward, including a photoshoot opportunity at Barn 2, Gulfstream Park, Ft. Lauderdale
To highlight the fact that over half of Nic’s string of polo ponies are “Off-the-Track Thoroughbreds,” and that this is a essential way these two regal disciplines can work together to provide a wonderful future for OTTBs.
Sport of Kings meets the Game of Kings
From January to May, the focus of the international polo world is on Wellington, Florida; and on Sunday 8th of January one of top American polo player Nic Roldan’s mounts was chosen as the Best Playing Pony of that game. The mare in question is a chestnut mare called Cubana, an “Off-the-Track Thoroughbred” (OTTB). In fact, over half of Nic’s current string are OTTBs. You can see some of his string here; Tulsa, Ducati, Cohiba and Cubana are all OTTBs. In all facets, Argentina has the monopoly on polo, and players breed copious amounts of polo ponies on the pampas plains. However, Stateside, people often look to the racetrack as an essential source of their ponies.
Nic’s love for polo comes as result of his passion for horses. In polo, it’s considered that horses are 80% of the game whilst players only contribute 20%. As such, it’s the team with the best mounts that wins. Nic often highlights his mounts and, when highlighting Cubana’s success, he hit a cord and got a great response from not just the polo world but also the racing and fans of OTTBs. This provided a great and wonderful opportunity for these two disciplines to combine. Adding to this is the fact that two of Nic’s horse trainers, Osvaldo and Terri Gallitelli, come from the racing industry.
Thanks to Terri’s amazing work, the unique opportunity arose for Nic to go to Gulfstream Park to watch none other than California Chrome train – and then to meet him. For polo folks not in the know, California Chrome is racing’s answer, performance-wise, to Cuartaterra.
California Chrome is racing’s all-time leading earner with $14,452,650. He is a seven-time Grade 1 winner and was the Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016. This weekend, on Saturday, January 28, California Chrome will make his final start in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. The $12 million purse is the largest, worldwide, in the sport. California Chrome will then retire to stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.
So at 5:30am, in the dark, on a Monday morning, there we all were at Gulfstream Park – and what an experience it was. We had unprecedented access to this amazing horse in one of the most important weeks of his life. We saw him get ready and train. Afterwards he was bathed and we were allowed hands on access – amazing! This was followed shortly after by a photo opportunity where Nic was given California Chrome to hold solo, which was a most surreal moment for him.
Special thanks must go to Duncan Taylor for this rare opportunity and thanks to the kindness and willingness of Alan Sherman to allow us access to this awe-inspiring athlete. The group also really enjoyed talking to Dihigi Gladney, California Chrome’s work rider. A special shout out must also go to the legendary racing photographer Barbara Livingston, who was a big part of this.
This was a serendipitous moment where two entities at the top of their game were bought together, able to highlight how these two regal disciplines can compliment each other and draw attention to the fact that polo is a fantastic avenue for the OTTBs.
It was wonderful how we were welcomed and how the racing fraternity was interested to hear about the OTTB’s use in our sport. Thoroughbreds makes some of the best polo ponies, and often are the best horses in all equine disciplines, as they are the fastest and most athletic. Especially as polo has evolved, Thoroughbreds have become prolific in the sport. We look for horses 15-15’2 in height, with short cannon bones, good angles at the hocks, body & head carriage, and of course sound and very quiet in character. Also, ideally in polo, we look for mares – which is a timing factor, as mares can play high-goal in 2-3 years but geldings mature later in our sport. On the way back, we joked that California Chrome was not too big for polo and that given he was retiring anyway after this weekend, he may just make it in time for the US Open Polo this year…well, in our dreams anyway! One of polo’s most well known ponies was a chestnut with a blaze down his face called Aiken Cura, so it was not hard to see a resemblance.
We would like to thank the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for their enthusiasm and help in making this possible. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, this non-profit accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding. Along with continued funding from its original partners Breeders’ Cup Ltd., The Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association Inc., the TAA is now supported by owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, aftercare professionals and other industry groups. To date, 64 aftercare organizations supporting more than 180 facilities across the U.S. and Canada have been granted accreditation and received funding from the TAA.
In the UK, where Nic plays from May through July, “Retraining of Racehorses” (RoR) is a similar program. They have a special scheme by which OTTBs are recognized in polo. OTTBs are marked with a special sticker so the public on the sidelines know they are OTTBs, and often a special prize is given to the best OTTB in a game. Those are two of their incentives to help generate awareness in this area.
Nic is also very active philanthropically in the area of equine welfare, via Brooke for whom he is an ambassador; as is Boyd Martin, who in turn also has a OTTB as one of his top mounts in the form of Blackfoot Mystery.
Nic and Terri will be presenting California Chrome with a halter and a stallion halter that they had specially made as token of their appreciation by Quillin Leather & Tack, Paris, Kentucky.
Fueled by talent, charisma and passion, Nic Roldan is the present leading American polo player with an impressive 8-goal handicap rating. He is also the youngest polo player in the world to win the prestigious U.S. Open Polo title at the age of 15 and is currently Captain of the U.S. Polo Team.
Winning victoriously on all 5 continents at every goal level, Nic continues to gain worldwide acclaim. His goals are to increase awareness and participation for the sport at all levels, reach the highest accolade 10-goal status, play the Argentine Open, claim a second U.S. Open Polo title, add more worldwide Polo trophies to his cabinet and help America reclaim the infamous Westchester Cup.
Under his captaincy the U.S. Polo Team has benefitted in Internationals, as have an ever-increasing number of Beach Polo, Snow Polo and Charity events. His philanthropic involvement as team captain in Charity tournaments is widely recognized, as is his distinct modeling career. He is a dedicated ambassador to both Brooke USA and the Kids Cancer Foundation.
His commitment to popularize the sport he loves with a wider audience of younger players and new spectators reflects his passionate dedication to Polo.
Cubana (F, Chestnut, TB Name: Total Regs, by City Zip, b. 2010) is a OTTB mare who was broken in as a yearling in Kentucky by Bella Lowes. Bella remembered her fondly and commented that Cubana just had the most amazing attitude, straightforward and really “bonnie.”
Kris Kampsen & Martin Phagouape bought her as a 3-year-old, in Lexington, thanks to the help of Mt Brilliant’s Gay Bredin. Kris was keen to purchase her, as he knew her bloodline was special with her father being City Zip, one of the top sires in racing. As far as we know, Cubana is his only progeny in polo, as his bloodlines are simply unaffordable.
Kris comments that she’s an incredible mare, and as soon as he sat on her he was impressed by how effortless she made every move. Kris and Martin made her polo-ready and Kris started playing her at Grand Champions Polo Club, after which Nic bought her. She played in the 2015 East Coast Open at Greenwich Polo Club and this is her first full Florida high-goal season. She has matured into a consistent great mare, doing everything that is asked of her, an all-rounder as far as her abilities go.
This Best Playing Pony award, in a league game of the Joe Barry Cup at the International Polo Club, marks her first – and it looks like a bright future for this mare stepping up to the plate in the big league.
Nic Roldan and fellow professional polo player Kris Kampsen have been friends for a long time, both on and off the polo field. Kris has also become a regular source of horses for Nic to add to his string, so the recognition of Cubana once more confirms Kampsen’s skill in this area. He’s always on the look out for small OTTBs, with nice bone, short cannon bones, good angle of hocks and head carriage. Kris has developed a program to make them polo-ready. If ever you think you have something he may be interested in please reach out via horses@NicRoldan.com.
San Antonio Polo Players Slowly Rebuilding the Sport
By Stephanie Guzman
Read the original article here...
Bill Askins remembers a time when riders would regularly saddle their horses, pick up a mallet and practice polo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
A San Antonio native who worked in the nation's capital for seven years, Askins said he would haul his horses from his Virginia home to the National Mall twice per week in the 1970s.
“You'd play between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial,” Askins said. “It was all taken care of by the National Park Service.”
Upon returning to his hometown, Askins was pleased to find a vibrant polo community in San Antonio. He joined the San Antonio Polo Club, which was established in 1920 and had two areas to practice. One was a polo field at Brackenridge Park, where park goers would often stop by to watch a practice match. The second was Retama Polo Center in Selma, a well known facility that had 22 fields and stables to accommodate about 400 horses.
Following the banking crisis in the late 1980s, however, both facilities closed. The polo field at Brackenridge Park was converted to a driving range. The owner of Retama Polo Center in Selma went into bankruptcy and sold the property, which has since been eaten away by development.
Ursula Pari, a KSAT news anchor who has played polo since 1987, said the closures were a huge loss to the city's polo players.
“It was devastating to all of us,” Pari said. “Retama was one of the premier polo facilities in the country. It was absolutely perfect because the property was flat and the fields had been built beautifully.”
Pari said the sport suffered locally. About the only horses seen in the city limits were the ones pulling tourists in carriages downtown and parents no longer encouraged their children to try polo, as a nearby field wasn't available to learn how to play.
“We lost a generation or two,” Pari said.
Some San Antonio polo players traveled to other cities to practice and play in tournaments. Others, like Askins, turned to alternative equestrian sports, including dressage.
The San Antonio Polo Club hung on by a thread during the 1990s and 2000s. Then last year, members dedicated themselves to bringing a polo field back to San Antonio.
The club got as close as Bulverde.
Located on 100 acres, the donated grounds have a 20-horse barn, a tournament field, practice field and a 5-acre lake.
Since finding its new home, the San Antonio Polo Club is now at more than 40 members and continues to grow.
Younger members are also saddling up.
Reagan Gregory, 13, picked up polo in the summer. Inspired by her two college-aged cousins who play polo, Reagan was drawn to the sport by her competitive nature.
The 7th grader at St. Luke Catholic School is a natural athlete who plays volleyball, basketball, soccer and tennis, but she wanted to try something different.
“This sport is difficult in that it's more challenging and you have to spend some time at it. It teaches you how to multitask,” Reagan said.
What's more, the petite, left-handed girl must use her right hand to wield the mallet while her dominant hand steers the horse as it barrels down the field.
It's a sight that causes Reagan's mother, Dr. Gale Gregory, to bite her nails during practice sessions.
“It's a very demanding sport and I just keep thinking, 'Don't fall off that horse,'” Gregory said. “But I give her a lot of points because she gets control of that horse. And I'm comfortable because I have confidence in her and the instructors.”
The San Antonio Polo Club wants more children to become involved in the sport. In an effort to make the sport more accessible to youngsters, the club holds an annual fundraising event at Olmos Basin Park.
This year's tournament, named Polo in the Park, takes place Sunday, Nov. 2, from noon to 4 p.m.
The polo club, a nonprofit, has given lessons to about 35 children over the past year, Pari said. Some of the participants are foster children who partake in horse therapy, which teaches the children social skills, boundaries, trust and the ability to build self-confidence.
The Polo in the Park event includes an Argentinean steak lunch by Tejas Rodeo Steakhouse. General admission is $10 and children are $5.
A VIP luncheon under tents includes a Parisian meal by Chez Vatel Bistro with champagne and wine. For more information, visit sanantoniopoloclub.com.
Photo By Photos by Marvin Pfeiffer / Alamo Heights Weekly
Jack Cray, left, and Gal Shweiki, center, chase down a ball during a game at the San Antonio Polo Club's practice field, 285 Obst Road in Bulverde earlier this month.