Giddy up for polo

Sport is much more affordable than people think.

POLO, a sport for the elite. At least that’s what many think of it.

However, according to the Sabah Polo Association chairman Johnson Or, the sport is much more affordable than people think.

“You need money to play polo actively, that is for sure, but not so exorbitant that only the elites can play it,” he said.

He said for starters, those who wish to learn more about the sport and take part in it must know how to ride a horse, because you cannot play polo without a horse.

“There has to be some cost for the maintenance of a horse, and whether you own or rent a horse,” said Or, who is an avid polo player himself.

He said the cost to maintain a horse and to play polo can go as low as several thousand a month, mainly for the maintenance of the horse and stable fees.

For tournaments, he said it is preferably better for players to bring their own horses because of the animals’ understanding and connection with owners.

Alternatively, the option of rental is always available for players, Or said.

Sharing his story of how he got into polo, he said he used to ride cows owned by his uncle when he was a child.

A polo player in action.A polo player in action.

“When I was a kid, I used to go to my uncle’s farm where he had several cows and rode on them as if they were horses. Many children rode cows and buffaloes in those days,” he said.

Or had lots of fun playing with the cows, running around in the farm and just having fun outdoors and that was what sparked his interest in this lesser known sport in Sabah.

He said with Sabah’s large land areas, polo is actually the kind of sport that the state can look into developing.

He said for those who are interested to learn more about polo, they can always reach out to the association to see how they can get involved and maybe play the sport actively.

“Our outgoing King is also a fan of this sport. We have been to events together in Peninsular Malaysia and even went to Brunei for a game or two with the royalties there,” Or said.

He said basically, polo is a horseback riding sport where players have to score goals to earn points.

According to Wikipedia, this is a traditional field sport and one of the world’s oldest known team sports played by two opposing teams. Its objective is to score using a long-handled wooden mallet to hit a small hard ball through the opposing team’s goal.

Each team has four mounted riders, and the game usually lasts one to two hours, divided into periods called chukkas or “chukkers”.

Asked about the cost of owning a horse in Sabah, association honorary secretary Alexander Yee said it depends on many factors, such as age and speed or agility of the horse.

“On average, it’s about RM35,000 to RM70,000 for a reasonable polo playing horse. Monthly expenses (vitamins, food and stable fees) are about RM2,000 per horse,” he said.

However, it would be cheaper if one wants to rent and learn to ride a horse first, and then learn to play polo.

Yee said polo is not a well known sport in Sabah, mainly because people are not familiar with horseback riding and they are also afraid of the cost to play or even learn the sport.

“But I think even people in the middle income group can try their hands on polo or horse riding,” he said.

“You might get addicted, like me,” he added.

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