This post is also available in: Spanish
Fast, furious, and featuring an awesome alliance between human and horse, polo is the #1 spectator sport in Casa de Campo, and the most fashionable thing TO DO in Casa. We hope you’re ready because this season… we’re bringing polo back into fashion.
A polo match is just as engaging off the field as on. And that is exactly what you should expect from the finals of the 11th annual Casa de Campo Copa Semana Santa on Saturday April 4th, when polo will combine with fashion for an unforgettably stylish experience for all the family. Click here for more details on the 11th annual Casa de Campo Copa Semana Santa.
In the meantime, maybe it’s high time you brushed up on your basic polo knowledge? While everyone knows polo as a team game on horseback, if you’re not familiar with the rules it can look a lot like ponies stampeding up and down a field… exciting yes, but also confusing. So to help you really get into the spirit of the game, here we bring you a beginners guide to polo. Tally-ho!
A brief history of the Sport of Kings
Polo was a popular pastime long before written history, and so widespread that historians have been unable to pinpoint from where and when it originated. However, they do know that it started more than 2,000 years ago in Asia, possibly first in Persia, not as an athletic pursuit, but as a way to train elite army troops.
Over the years, the game developed into a popular sport among royalty, hence the common nickname “Sport of Kings”, also used to refer to other noble sports such as hunting, falconry and horse-racing.
Although perhaps one of the most intense of all team games, polo is very similar to football, hockey and in some ways even golf. Atop polo ponies, and reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour, the players vie for the ball in seven minute “chukkers”, or periods, with the aim to score goals against the opposing team.
Teams & handicaps
A polo team consists of four players, each with a handicap of between -2 to 10 goals, which represents the number of goals a player is worth to his team. From the individual handicaps, the team handicap is formed from the sum of all four players.
In tournaments, if two teams have different handicaps, the team with the lowest will start the game with a goal advantage equal to the difference in their handicaps. For example, a team with a 24 goal handicap will start with a 2 goal advantage against a 26 goal team.
The polo pony
Previously there was a height restriction for the horses, which is why they are referred to as “polo ponies”, that has now changed and average height nowadays is around 60 to 70 inches.
Polo horses come from many parts of the world, but the best are still thought to be from Argentina, who are famous their excellent speed, strength and agility. However, Casa de Campo began breeding their own ponies in the late 1960’s and are also known to be of very high calibre.
A good polo pony should be fast, agile and able to stop and turn quickly, many players rightly attribute their success to the ability of their mount. Each animal only plays two “chukkers” per game, which is why you will notice many ponies waiting at the side of the field.
Each game is divided into 4 or 6 periods of play called “chukkers”, during which the aim is to score by hitting the ball between the goal posts. At the start of each “chukka” the two sides line up in the middle of the field and the referee (also on horseback) throws the ball down the middle of the two lines. Each “chukka” lasts just seven minutes, with three minutes of downtime between them, used to change horses.
Similar to most team games, each player has a position and an area of responsibility. Number one plays the front, numbers two and three in the center and number four in defense.
The most important rule is right of way. During play there is an imaginary line of ball. When a player has established that line, if another player crosses it close enough to be dangerous, or cause the first player to slow up, a foul is committed and a penalty given (this is what is happening when the whistle blows). A player may use his horse to push another player away from the ball, or hook an opponent’s stick. Also, for safety reasons, it is prohibited to use the mallet in the left-hand, making polo one of the few sports left-handed people cannot play.
After each goal the teams switch sides, so you have to be watching carefully to figure out the direction of play.
Fancy a charge?
If you are a confident rider, learning to play polo is surprisingly easy, although of course it’s a skill that takes many years to master. You will first learn how to handle the equipment with “stick and ball” sessions, skills you will then practice on your pony. If you want to give this thrilling sport a go, lessons are available at the Casa de Campo Polo Club, call (809) 523-8951.
Being organized by ourselves, SILGON with CasaLife Magazine as the host, we promise polo as you’ve never seen it done before in the Dominican Republic.
The dress code is “whimsical chic with a touch of polo” and you’ll be able to show off your Polo Style on the red carpet opening at 11am, following which we invite you to relax and enjoy brunch in the VIP CasaLife picnic area while we entertain you with fashion shows, an exhibition of Paso Fino and show jumping, as well as of course, the best polo in the country.
Save the date. Saturday April 4th, 11am-6pm, at the Casa de Campo polo fields. It’s the place to be this Sábado Santo.