LEXINGTON, Ky — For many, the Kentucky Horse Park is a peaceful escape to nature. For a group tucked away in the back of the park, summer marks a return to the sport they love.
After halting play due to the coronavirus, the Lexington Polo Club is back on its massive playing field. It’s an area encompassing 48,000 square yards – enough to fit nine football fields.
Francisco Llosa is an Argentine who’s made polo a full-time paying career. His connection to the sport came with his relationship with horses.
“I just enjoy everything about the sport,” he said before scrimmaging against pros and novices alike. “I start riding and walking pretty much at the same time. I mean, we don’t remember.”
Depending on the length of a match, riders can switch between up to six horses during play. It can resemble a NASCAR pit stop. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and legs to train, and the tailgating looks different than an average football game.
Tannis Primm, the club’s vice president, displayed a spread in the back of her Jeep that included champagne on ice and sliced charcuterie. But she assured us you don’t need to own a million-dollar ranch to play the game.
“You don’t actually need anything at all,” she said, sitting next to her sideline snack, complete with flowers in a vase. “There are a couple steps you have to go through. However, I think that once people realize that it is accessible, especially in Lexington, it’s the horse capital of the world. There are so many opportunities.”
Beginners are welcome, we were repeatedly told, but the pros stand out. A fellow Argentine professional to Llosa, Juan Valerd wore our GoPro during the practice, which captured Valerd swatting a single shot on goal out of midair with the thin shaft of his mallet – hitting it twice before it had a chance to touch the ground.
It’s the only ball sport we can think of where, as horse and rider, two athletes must move as one. Mistakes are made. Defense can be gritty. But when it goes right, it’s poetry in motion.
And all with the backdrop of Kentucky horse country.