Horses have proved to be indispensible to humans since time immemorial, whether for working in the fields, transporting people and goods from place to place and of course for sporting purposes. In the late 1700s, horses were brought to Australia, with 7 horses and mares being transported to the country in 1788 and increasing to 70 by the end of the next century thanks to a breeding program. Although in the beginning these horses were intended to serve a transportation purpose, eventually selective breeding produced a variety called Walers who had extra speed and strength.
Possibly the oldest equestrian sport is polo, with documented evidence of the first polo match having been held in Persia 2500 years ago. In Florida, polo is certainly a popular sport and the state is one of only 12 official “polo circuits” recognized by the US Polo Association.
Polo arrived in the West via India where the game has been in existence since the 1500s. Having seen matches played in India, British army officers brought the game home with them and re-invented it during the 19th century. Today, the rules that were invented by the London Hurlington Club, with its fashionable reputation, are still widely in use today.
The sport was then carried to Argentina by British cattlemen and this is now one of the hot spots for polo aficionados, with some of the world’s top players playing the game here in the Buenos Aires Palermo arena.
A polo match is played in either 4, 5 or 6 chukkas (also known as chukkers). Each chukka lasts for precisely 7 and a half minutes and this is because the game is considered to be extremely strenuous for the horses to play. Each team boasts 4 players, each having been assigned a specific position. Each player uses a string of ponies who measure around 15 or 16 hands in height (one hand represents a measurement of 4 inches). In each chukka, each player rides a different horse. This is because a polo pony must gallop 300 metres during each chukka and even in professional games where ponies can achieve a higher speed they still only use one horse per chukka. The purpose of the game is to use a mallet to hit the ball between top posts at the end of the field while riding their horse. This is called a time and whenever a time is scored, the players reverse their goals.
Polo is well known to be a game that is the preserve of the wealthy because of its very high cost to play. Today, this has caused problems because of its exclusive nature, however luckily other spectator variants of this sport, such as elephant polo and beach polo, have helped the public to become more interested in this sport in the 21st century.
Anyone who wishes to try their hand at playing polo should join one of the many polo clubs to learn the sport. It is important, however, to already be a proficient horse rider as a player’s horseriding skills must be excellent in order to succeed, although there are many places that you can learn to ride a horse first. Anyone interesting in joining a polo club can search and apply via the internet from their home PC and those who try the game are sure to enjoy their new hobby.
Polo is an excellent workout and is perfect for toning and developing the body’s core muscles. Polo works out the whole body and can be considered to be a form of interval training – thought to be one of the most effective forms of exercise for fat loss. Polo requires short bursts of intense exercise followed by short rest periods and this is known to not only burn calories during play, but also continues to burn fat while at rest afterwards.