As they tend to the muddy field, staff at the Eldorado Polo Club in Indio can already hear the rumble of the horses’ hooves. Opening day for the polo club may have been postponed from this Sunday to Jan. 17 due to rainy weather, but hopes for the 2016 season are just as high as ever.
As opening day approaches, preparations are being made at the 50-950 Madison St. location for the thousands of people ready to watch the increasingly popular game Marketing and Events Director James a’Court calls “hockey on horses.”
The Empire Polo Club, also in Indio, kicked off its season a week ago, when the field at 81-800 Avenue 51 most commonly associated with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival filled with people ready to eat, drink and watch polo. While Friday’s and Saturday’s events have been largely cancelled due to rain, the 12 and 2 p.m. games scheduled for Sunday at the club are still tentatively scheduled.
When the desert returns to its normal aridity, about 1,000 to 2,000 people show up every Sunday at the Eldorado Polo Club for the 12 and 2 p.m. games, according to a’Court. He believes that as polo continues to shed stereotypes of big hats and fat wallets, it continues to attract the attention of people with little experience with horse sports.
Tailgating, picnics, and leashed dogs are all welcome at the club, a’Court said, making it easy to have a relaxing, low-cost afternoon at the polo field.
A strong prior understanding of the rules isn’t even needed, he added, as the play-by-play from announcer Tony Gregg can guide anyone through the games.
“It doesn’t take very long for people to get into the game,” a’Court said. “It’s a cool entertainment spectacle.”
More than 80 club members from Eldorado alone will visit the valley, each bringing with them family, friends and porters. The Coachella Valley is one of the only places in the U.S. in which it’s suitable to play polo in the winter, making it a “hub” for players internationally since the 1950s, according to a’Court.
With two polo clubs just within city limits, Indio has become the center of that hub and a major beneficiary of the international visitors the season brings with it.
“We’re more than pleased to help kick off the 2016 polo season at Eldorado,” Indio Mayor Glenn Miller said in a statement. “Whether having a picnic on the sidelines or taking in the action from the clubhouse, it’s one of the must-do activities here during the winter months. Sunday polo is an ideal way to spend an afternoon in our beautiful desert.”
People who grow smitten with the game can go even further, as both clubs offer polo academies for those who want to learn the sport from the ground up.
Whether it’s watching from the sidelines or playing the game itself, entering into the world of polo means embedding oneself in a time-honored valley pastime.
“Sunday polo is something that’s always been a part of the desert tradition,” a’Court said. “It’s for everyone.”
Games are held at both polo clubs at 12 and 2 p.m. most Sundays until April 3, weather permitting. Parking is $10, but general admission is free. For further information and a full schedule, visit eldoradopoloclub.com or empirepolo.com.
Anna Rumer is a public safety reporter for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at (760) 285-5490, email@example.com or on Twitter @AnnaRumer.