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The Game of Polo

Once the sport of mounted warriors and princes, polo is quite a game, perhaps the ultimate game. It combines all the elements for perfect sport: Horses and riders, mallets and a ball, strong teamwork, versatility and courage, not to mention a remarkable degree of stamina. Polo is no game for the laid-back introvert because one's aggressions and abilities are tested repeatedly during each of he six 7-minute chukkers (periods of play) as players pursue the ever-elusive white ball up and down a ground the size of 10 football fields. We invite you to view the video "Polo in the Country," a discussion between Norfolk Hunt Club member Gil Rodgers and Club President Ted Eayrs. Ted is a polo player and discusses the excitement of polo and the special attributes necessary for polo players and their horses.

Participants will tell you their horses are 80 percent of the game and not exaggerate, for without a nimble, well-schooled mount one has little hope of getting to the ball or being of any use to teammates. Superb athletes, high-goal ponies usually play only one chukker a game - but what a chukker! During that brief 7 minutes, they are almost always in motion with more demands made on them than any racehorse.

But of course horses aren't the whole of polo. The game itself is a thrilling spectacle that is occasionally likened to a cavalry charge. With four players on a side, all riding hard to hit the ball while guiding a speeding mount, equal degrees of skill and diversity are needed for real success. A polo player must be able to sit his horse without thinking about riding, plan game strategy quickly as the plays flow back and forth along the field, try not to foul and always be ready to take over and play a position other than his own.

Team play in polo sounds like a tall order in this day of specialized sports. Of course it is, but that's the challenge as well as the reward of the game. And once savored, it's difficult not to be consumed with a passion for this most perfect of all ball games, wherein man and horse continue to renew an excitement and electricity that has been generated for over 2,000 years.

(This article is reprinted in part from Newport International Polo Magazine 2008)

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