Friday, March 15, 2013

Eldorado Polo Club ~ Polo Games ~ Palm Springs, California

When I think of the game of polo, I see British royalty playing but the origin goes back to Persia in the fifth century BC.  It was originally a war-training exercise for soldiers then the “Sport of Kings” made its’ way around the world but didn’t arrive in North America until the 1870’s.  So our day at the Polo games in Indio, neighboring Palm Springs, brings me to learn something about polo.
A lake covers part of the grounds between polo fields
Eldorado Polo grounds in Indio, CA
We’ve been to two polo grounds on our visit to this area and they’re both expansive green manicured areas with a quiet and impressive atmosphere and the San Jacinto Mountains as a perfect background.  The one we will be visiting today is Eldorado Polo Club which has a pond with ducks and geese looking right at home.
A large tent covers the dining room at the clubhouse
Clubhouse at gametime at Eldorado Polo Club
The spectators are invited to watch the game free of charge and the clubhouse offers a menu for those who wish to eat lunch and enjoy cold drinks here.  Many in the crowd tend to dress up and hats are a common sight, much like we have seen in the movies. It is nice to see the old custom of dressing up still part of the game.

Chairs lined up behind the trucks for good view of the games
Friends and Maggie watching the polo match
Another crowd, this one includes us, has parked for a tailgate party on the knoll of the grassy area overlooking the polo field, also free of charge and enjoying the day in the sunshine, having a picnic lunch and watching the games of the day.  This is our kind of fun!

Both man and his horse are true athletes for this game
Athletes of the polo game
A polo match is made up of two teams with four players each and carrying a mallet to hit a small white ball (8.3 cm or 3 ¼ in.) between the goalposts.  The teams change ends after each goal.  There are two horseback riding umpires on the field during the games with a referee on the sidelines should a third opinion be needed in case of a disagreement on a penalty decision.  

The ball brings the riders to the boards which is not far from the viewers
Polo action at the boards
The game consists of 4,6 or 8 chukkers (periods), which last 7.5 minutes each and the players have four minutes between each chukker to change horses, who usually only play one chukker per game on the 275x165 metres (300 x 180 yd) playing field. 
Divot repairs at half-time
At half-time for each game, the crowd is invited to walk out into the playing field and put the divots back in place to make it better for the ball to travel over.  The crowd is much larger when the half-time comes in the big game of the day and a glass of champagne is offered to all who participate in the divot job.
Players race by one another as the referee watches closely
Referee with close eye on the game
They do have Women’s Polo leagues but on this day, the games consist of both men and women together on some of the teams.  Just seeing the skills and strength that is needed to play this game make it pretty impressive to watch these athletes which including the polo ponies.

Great action shot just after the ball was hit with the mallet
Horse is airborne and the ball's been hit
The horses are incredible to see; how they maneuver and thunder down the field at full speed before coming to a quick stop or twist is something else. Their lower legs are covered to protect them from injuries. The pony’s mane and tail are braided to avoid getting tangled with the mallet.

Ponies leave dust behind them as they race by
Polo ponies race down the field
Thoroughbreds are the most common polo pony, although thoroughbred crosses are also used.  The ‘polo pony’, the common name rather than ‘horse’, usually stands about 15 (132 cm, 52”) to 16 hands tall. These are all very tall and beautiful horses.

Then the Canadian team accepts the winners trophy
The Sofonio Polo Classic opening and closing ceremonies
The Sofonio Polo Classic was the big game of the day with the Canadian team Highwood and the competing team being led onto the field by the sponsor and flags flying in the breeze for the anthem. The Highwood team fared well coming out the winner of the Classic game. Lots of cheers from our Canadian Snowbird group were surely a contributing factor!

We enjoyed ourselves and plan on coming back to see more polo games. Now that we understand the game better, I am sure we will enjoy it even more. We were lucky to have seen the Canadian team today, GO TEAM!! Watching them win was even better.

It is always great to see, do and learn about new things so let’s go find some more fun!

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