On the Field With the Louisville Polo Club

On a warm Friday night at Oxmoor Farm, a few pop-up canopies shield splays of food from the setting sun, which casts an intense glow over the manicured field. Dozens of spectators sit in foldout chairs or on blankets as children practice cartwheels and chase puppies. They’re all here for Louisville Polo Club’s Friday Night Fights. (Tuesday and Thursday evening practices are also open to the public through the end of September, when the season ends.) Tiffany Meredith, the group’s marketing and development director and one of about 25 players in the club, helped start the free event to get more people out to watch polo — and possibly want to learn to play. “There’s this image of polo as elitist and inaccessible,” says Meredith, who works in communications at U of L. “It’s not like that here. I joke that I’m a blue-collar player.”

Sixteen athletes — eight equine and eight human, four pairs to a team — move up and down the lawn, which is the size of nine football fields. The rhythms of huffing horses and thudding hooves dominate, punctuated by the thwack of a cane-shaft mallet and its wooden head striking a dense plastic ball, the aim being to get the ball past the other team and through goal posts. The athleticism and intelligence of the horses, many of which are imported from Argentina — what Meredith calls the mecca of polo — is almost more amazing to watch than that of those on a racetrack. They respond to riders’ directions, charge into packs of horses and stop and go without a fight or skittish episode.

Jim Boland got involved in 1972 as the club was forming. He mostly plays on practice nights these days, though his sons and grandsons all play. “When you get on a horse and get going pretty fast and you hit the thing, it feels pretty good,” the 76-year-old says. “It gets your adrenaline going and it involves your whole body — you’re not just riding along like a sack of potatoes.”

For more on the Louisville Polo Club, check out their Facebook page.

This originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline “Pony Play.” To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

Photos by Joon Kim, studiojoon.com

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