Polo is known as “The Sport of Kings” because it has the reputation of drawing only the wealthy as participants and fans. Yes, maintaining a string of polo ponies is very expensive, and the huge playing fields are often located in ritzy enclaves of the rich and famous. But polo remains as a sport of love and passion for those whose ride or watch from the sidelines.
Here are 10 things that you may not know about polo that may surprise you and perk your interest in the sport:
1. Polo ponies are mostly female. Unlike most horse-related events, mares rule the polo pony stable.
2. Polo ponies are seasoned in age as they range from 6 to 13 years old. Usually at age 14 or older, they are retired from the sport to be used as broodmares.
3. “Polo” is thought to originate from the Tibetan word “pulu” which translates to “ball.” The game originated sometime between 600 BC and 100 AD in Central Asia.
4. Although polo is gaining some popularity in the United States, Argentina is the hot spot for polo with its colorful gaucho horsemen.
5. Polo is played on a huge grass field that measures 300 yards long (3 football fields) and a 160 yards wide. With his much expanse, the horses can reach speeds of 35-40 mph.
6. Polo balls were once made out of bamboo or willow plants, but the modern balls are all plastic measuring 3-1⁄4 inches in diameter. The 4 ounce balls can reach a velocity of nearly 110 mph when struck accurately by a full-galloping rider. .
7. The polo mallet has rounded ends which are not meant to be used for striking the polo ball. That function is done with the wide sides of the mallet rather than the heads.
8. The horses are shod with special “polo shoes” that are light and have a rim that provides good traction on the sod fields. For heavier turf, the rears shoes can be fitted with studs much like the studs on snow tires for even better footing.
9. Here is a particular oddity that only polo can claim: only right-handed players are allowed to participate. Even if you are a natural lefty, you have to play right handed to be allowed to play. This rule is enforced to prevent head-on collisions.
10. Polo horses have their manes are shaved off before every match to prevent the 0air from getting entangled in the reins or around the mallet. It takes about a year or more for the hair for grow back to its natural length.