Newport vs. Boston, June 25
Last week, I was generously offered a pair of tickets to see a polo match in Portsmouth, just over the bridge from Jamestown. It is not an activity that I have ever really considered attending or one that I even knew could be found here. I have always been a horse lover and rode quite a bit when I was younger, but the thought of polo for me just always brought to mind a crowd of people, dressed to the nines with over-the-top hats and white gloves, sipping on champagne, sitting all prim and proper on the sidelines. Well, let me tell you. I was dead wrong. And I’m so glad that I was!
A polo game is not one that will leave you dazed and confused, wondering what the heck just went down over the last couple of hours. No, it is pretty easy to pick up the basics of the game (and it certainly helps to have a seasoned group of regulars sitting next to you explaining every detail). Although the official rules, according to the US Polo Association, take up 55 pages in a book, there are only a few that you need to know to follow. The Newport Polo Club website states: ‘In a nutshell: don’t hit your horse or anyone else’s with a mallet. You can’t play left-handed. No dangerous riding. Abusive play and language are not allowed. If a player comes off his or her horse, the clock can continue to run; if a horse falls down, stop the clock.’
As for the nature of a match, it’s really a fun time! No stuffiness here. It is essentially a big tailgate party. People bring their beach chairs, blankets, grills, coolers, dogs, umbrellas, kids, etc. and set up around the perimeter of the field. Attire is whatever makes you feel comfortable on a warm summer night sitting on the grass. You can expect to be there about 2 hours. There are 6 chukkers to a game, each one lasting 7 ½ minutes. But there are always penalties, time between chukkers to change ‘ponies’ and half time to consider. Half time is entertaining as spectators are invited to the field to help replace the divots. For me, the most exciting part was hearing the thunder of hooves as the horses race back and forth. It is an aggressive game, but beautiful as well. You will be amazed at the speed of the ponies as well as how agile they are when they have to make quick maneuvers. Apparently, good polo ponies know the game just as well, or better, than their human counterparts, and play the game to win. I overheard someone say that if a rider were to make a wrong move, it is not uncommon for the horse to get upset.
The announcer kept us amused with his comments and at the end, I participated in what he called ‘that sweaty hand slapping thing’ where you can line up around the field and the riders will come by and slap your hand.
Oh, and I think I just may have to find the perfect hat for my next match.
Polo matches are every Saturday at Glen Farm in Portsmouth. Pricing is very reasonable at $10/adult for general admission. Check out their website for a schedule and more information. (http://www.glenfarm.com/)