‘Like hockey on horseback’: Sioux Falls Polo Club hosting regional tournament this weekend

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One of the world’s oldest team sports will be on display in eastern Sioux Falls this weekend. 

The Sioux Falls Polo Club is hosting the United States Polo Association Centennial Cup on Saturday and Sunday at Windrows Tournament Field, located just north of Good Earth State Park. The USPA has roughly 300 clubs across the United States. 

Rebecca Barker, a member of the Sioux Falls Polo Club, said the tournament will have five teams with two from Iowa and one from Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

“The goal of polo is to get the ball in the goal,” Barker said. “You have eight horses and riders out there at any one time.”

Riders wear eye protection, boots and helmets, while carrying long mallets to strike a 3-inch, white, hard plastic ball between goal posts on a large grass field (300 yards long and 160 yards wide.) 

“It’s kind of like hockey on horseback,” Barker said. “There’s a lot of action. There’s people trying to hit the ball into the goal. There’s people defending and trying to prevent the other people from getting the ball into the goal.”

Windrows Field in eastern Sioux Falls where the Sioux Falls Polo Club plays matches on a field 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. 

The team with the most points after six periods (called chukkers in polo terms) of play wins. Barker noted all ages and genders can play polo. She said players as young as 14 and as old as 60 will compete during this weekend’s tournament. 

And the rider’s relationship with a horse plays a crucial role. 

“Your connection with your horse is 80-percent of the game,” Barker said. “You need a horse that can take you to the ball. You need to have coordination and communication with your horse to stop and turn.” 

Barker added polo is a “great family sport” and encouraged people to come out and watch the sport in person. The Sioux Falls Polo Club encourages viewers bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket to sit and watch the action. 

This weekend’s schedule has a match scheduled for noon and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Any schedule updates due to weather can be found on the group’s Facebook page and website

Some historians tie the sport of polo back to the sixth century and that kind of history is not lost on Barker, who enjoys the sport in 2021. 

“The connection with man and horse has an incredible history,” Barker said. “Learning to respect the animal and have the animal respect you in general is incredible. Polo kinda takes it to the next level because it’s fast-paced, adrenaline.”

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