Skaneateles, N.Y. — It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed the “sport of kings” on the grassy Andrews Road field in Skaneateles. It’s heartening to see that Marty Craig is preserving the long lineage of polo that goes back to the first local player, Alexander Sinclair Reynolds, born in Skaneateles in 1896.
The Skaneateles Polo Club hosted the Polo Training Foundation Senior Tournament in which players have to be 50 and over in age. Skaneateles competed against a team from Preble Valley that was composed of some of the best players from Central New York.
The day was hot and sun drenched with little shade. Before the match, Marty explained some comforting dos and don’ts.
“If a horse is coming at you, always move directly back and not side to side. The last thing the horse wants to do is run you over.”
I got a quick reintroduction to the word chukkers, which means the timed period of play. Most matches have six. Each chukker is seven-and-a-half minutes long. The outdoor playing field is almost three times longer than a football field at 300 yards and also wider at 160 yards. It is the largest field in organized sport.
The large field makes distant play seem remote to the spectator, but at close range the play can be thrilling to watch. The sound of thundering hooves and the speeding explosions of horse and player are as exciting as any sport. At first glance, the sleek chestnut colored thoroughbred steeds appear to be the stars of the show, but the precise mallet strike by the rider puts the points on the board.
Preble Valley won 5-4 in a tightly played back and forth 5 chukker match.