The game of polo is played all across the world in both an amateur and professional settings, and that means there is a spot within driving distance to join a club or check out an event as a spectator. This is horseback polo, not the in-pool variety.
Polo has roots dating back from sixth-century BC to first-century AD through nomadic Iranian and Turkic people, making it one of the world’s oldest sports, according to Wikipedia.
Two teams use long wooden mallets to hit a small ball through a goal. There are four players and horses per team, and a game is divided into periods called chukkers, with the usual amount being four to eight at about seven minutes. Referees blow whistles when there is a penalty. The object is to score goals by hitting the ball through the goal. If the ball goes wide, the defending team gets a free knock in from where the ball crossed.
The U.S. Polo Club has the game on a 300-by-160-yard field with players scoring by sending the ball between an opposing team’s goal riding at speeds of up to 35 mph, according to uspolo.org. The team with the highest score after four to six chukkers wins.
There are four players per team. No. 1 is the most offensive oriented position; No. 2 has an important role in the offense but also covers the team’s opposing No. 3 player, who is generally the best player; No. 3 is the leader of the team and is generally the most powerful; No. 4 primarily players defense.
The United States Polo Club, established in 1890 by David Grubbs, involves 250 polo clubs and more than 4,500 members across the U.S. and Canada. It serves as the official governing body polo in the U.S.
There are a variety of theories on where polo started, but it is likely that it was with Iranian and Turkic nomads on horseback in central Asia. The current form most likely came from Persia, which is now Iran. The game was played in Constantinople during the fifth century when Emperor Theodisis II made a polo ground. It was also played in Japan during the Middle Ages, as well as spreading to Arabia, India and Tibet. In the 15th and 16th centuries. polo was played in south Asia in the area where Pakistan lies. The name “polo” may have been derived from the Balti word “pulu,” which means “ball.” It traveled the Silk Road to China and was played by both men and women, according to Wikipedia.
The modern game is reportedly derived from Manipur, India, and the first known polo club was created in Silchar, a town in Assam, India, in 1833. In Manipur, it is played with seven players per side and on the Manipuri pony. There are no goal posts, and the players hit the ball with the long side of the mallet head instead of the end. The game also moved its way through South America, notably Argentina in the 1800s, and is also played in countries like Brazil, Chile and Mexico.
In 1876, the game reached the United States with James Gordon Bennett Jr. reportedly organizing the first polo match in the U.S. At Dickel’s Riding Academy in New York City. It was created on May 6, 1876, and on May 13, the first match was set. The Westchester Club was created right after the first outdoor game. However, some evidence like a Galveston News article on May 6, 1876 says that Denison, Texas, had a polo club first.
Then in the 20th century, Harry Payne Whitney helped turn the game into a high speed sport differing from England. Whitney would use a fast break and send long passes downfield leading to a mad dash. In the late 1950s, the four-period match was established.
Polo comes to central Ohio
The game has come a long way over what has amounted to thousands of years, and while it has spanned the globe, it is a sport that can be found right here in Ohio.
Less than an hour’s drive from Knox County is the Columbus Polo Club in Frazeysburg. In Westerville, also less than an hour away, is the Play Polo Club at the Los Gemelos Polo Field. At the Westerville location, there is an event that took place last June called Picnic and Polo, which benefits the Dreams on Horseback therapeutic riding center.
The Ackley Polo Field is on Clark State Road in Columbus and was started by Stan Ackley, who played for more than 30 years, according to Play Polo Club. There are scrimmages at the field, now run by his nephew Sam, each Tuesday night. There is also the Bryn Du Polo Field in Granville that has 40 years of history. The South of Zero Polo Field is in Westerville at the same site as the Los Gemelos Polo Field, which is a small polo field for tournament play.
These clubs are part of the Play Polo Club and additional information can be found at playpoloclub.us.
Just a 45-minute drive from Mount Vernon is the Cashman Polo Field in Delaware, located at U.S. 42 North. Every year in August the Ohio Polo Classic is held, allowing people to come watch and learn about the game. The event attracts some of the best polo players from Central Ohio as well as around the country. Information can be found at columbusmakesart.com.
Among the horse riding, equine facilities and locations to get polo matches started are the following:
4740 Granville Rd, Mt Vernon, OH 43050
Knox County Horse Park
7360 Thayer Road.
Mount Vernon, OH 43050
Good Dun Ranch
7353 Fairview Road
Mount Vernon, OH 43050
Shannon Farms on Wall Street
2877 Wall St.
Centerburg, OH 43011
Cedar Creek Quarter Horses
13800 Armentrout Rd.
Fredericktown, OH 43019
Hidden Valley Stables
21250 Fowler Rd.
Butler, OH 44822
Valley View Farm
13418 Toms Rd #9614
Bellville, OH 44813
17901 Lifer Rd.
Howard, OH 43028