The Lexus Urban Polo is bringing one of the fastest team sports in the world to Auckland and Christchurch this summer, and we’ve got the lowdown on what to expect. With the help of ex New Zealand International player Sam Hopkinson, we’ll answer some of your most pressing questions, like what a chukka is, why polo players call their mounts ponies and not horses, what the ball is made of and (importantly) what to wear.
What is different about Lexus Urban Polo?
First and foremost, it’s in the heart of the city so doesn’t require a trek out into the countryside. There are also only three players per team, and they play on a smaller field. Designed with the spectator in mind, this means it is much easier to follow than traditional polo and the action is truly intense. You can see the beauty and power of the horses up close and feel the earth shudder as they thunder past. “Watching the skill level of the riders as they control the horses and hit a ball at the same time makes you really appreciate why it’s considered an extreme sport,” says Sam.
This year it’s going international
“Christchurch attendees at this year’s Lexus Urban Polo will get to see Australia’s FIP World Cup squad in action, with the team travelling through New Zealand in the lead up to the event,” says Sam. Auckland and Christchurch will also see international women’s matches take place, with the New Zealand team going head-to-head with Australia. Although traditionally a genderless sport, women’s polo is growing exponentially, now recognised by the running of a Women’s Argentine Open, the most prestigious tournament in the sport.
Lexus Urban Polo has something for everyone
Not just a sporting day out, Vice President of Lexus New Zealand, Andrew Davis says Lexus Urban Polo will be a celebration of expert pony-riding skills, summer fashion, and, of course, exceptional hospitality, which is a defining feature of the Lexus experience.
“It is extremely important that our guests feel welcome. The spirit of hospitality, expressed through omotenashi, is integral to Lexus. At our exclusive Lexus marquee, we’re aiming not just to welcome our guests but to anticipate and fulfil their needs, ensuring they have an amazing experience,” says Davis.
We’re thrilled to be part of this outstanding event once again. While we’re keeping our cards close for now, we can’t wait to share what we have in store with you closer to the event”.
It’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up
Each year the Lexus Urban Polo attracts a plethora of stylishly dressed attendees, celebrities and faces from the fashion world. The perfect excuse to strut your sartorial best, hats aren’t mandatory – but highly recommended for protection from the sun.
What is the history of the sport?
The oldest team sport in the world, it is widely believed that polo was originally played by nomadic warriors over two thousand years ago. During the Middle Ages, the sport was used to train cavalry for battle, but it was British tea-planters who first introduced polo to Britain, where it was quickly adopted by the militia and referred to as “Hockey on Horseback”.
Why is polo played with “ponies”, as opposed to horses?
While players call them ponies for polo – they are officially horses. That is, they stand at more than 14.2 hands (the official way to measure a horse). They are probably referred to as ponies because they need to be agile and quick, in New Zealand these are predominantly sourced from small Thoroughbred horses that didn’t make it on the racetrack. In Argentina and Australia, they are now cloning the best polo ponies and competing them at the elite level, some of these clones having originally come from New Zealand Thoroughbreds. It is estimated there are over 500 clones now playing in the game.
What is a chukka?
A “chukka” is the polo term for a period of play, which in traditional polo is 7 ½ minutes long. The Lexus Urban Polo plays four chukkas, which are shortened to five and a half minutes to account for the faster paced style with less stoppages. They are also shorter with the welfare of the ponies in mind, and it is compulsory for players to change horses at the end of each chukka.
The polo balls are different from the usual
Polo balls were originally made of poplar wood, but more recently progressed to high impact plastic and are a third smaller than the ball used at the Lexus Urban Polo. The Urban Polo team have developed a new ball made of hardened foam which is much safer for the ponies, players, and spectators.
The Lexus Urban Polo will be held in Christchurch at Hagley Park on Saturday, February 10, in Auckland at the Auckland Domain on Saturday March 9, 2024. For more info or to book a Private Marquee at the Lexus Urban Polo visit: urbanpolo.co.nz/ticketing-options or telephone: 09 217 4664.