The sport of polo might bring to mind the likes of princes and the rich and famous.

But David Ragland is trying to change that image.

He started the Oklahoma City Polo Club last year with 23 players, not knowing whether they would return this year. About 11 or 12 came back, he said.

“Polo is an expensive sport, and we are trying to make it less expensive,” Ragland said.

Ragland has been playing polo for 34 years and is the U.S. Polo Association circuit governor of the Great Plains, which includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.

He administers all activities in the circuit, which includes competitive games and instruction for beginners and advanced players, and he looks after the welfare of horses. He also keeps tabs on a team at Oklahoma State University.

The sport was popular in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in Oklahoma, with vibrant clubs in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Ragland said. But both clubs diminished in the last 15 to 20 years after their founders died, he said. Renewed interest

Now, through the OKC Polo Club, social or rider membership again is available in the area to anyone interested in the sport of polo.

Also, a youth club is available to students in grades 7 to 12, and intercollegiate games for those with four years of eligibility.

Ragland said social memberships are for supporters of the game who don’t have much experience and want to learn about the sport.

The rider membership is for players who want to become better riders and gain more experience. Ragland said the club will accept anyone, regardless of skill level.

The club also has a women’s league, with all levels of experience welcome, he added.

The Oklahoma City club, located five miles east of Interstate 35 on Memorial Road in Jones, has a complete U.S. Polo Association setup that includes a polo arena as well as two large practice fields.

A new 10-acre field that’s the size of nine football fields was played on for the first time this summer.

Polo pursuit

Youth club members played five 7-minute chukkers one Sunday in July. A chukker is a term for a period into which a game of polo is divided. Six chukkers typically make up a full game.

The members included pro player Chase Runge, who has been playing for 13 years.

“My horse’s name is Collage, and she is 5 years old. I practice three times a week and play in the spring up until it gets cold,” Runge said.

His favorite thing about polo is the speed and difficulty, he said.

That July day, the Oklahoma City Polo Club concluded its game against a youth team from Bentonville, Ark., just before the club went into its heat break for the summer.

Cedric Haulcy, with a club in northwest Arkansas, was there playing with a junior league along with other adults. He said he’d been playing polo for about six months and learned to ride a horse just three months before that.

“It’s an incredible sport. I like horses, and I like hitting the goal,” he said. “Riding the horse is important, but there’s a lot of rules to the game. The connection to the horse is important.”

Ragland said players may return for the fun of the sport, but “at the end of the day, they’ve got to be interested in caring for the horse.”

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