Right of Way
Let’s begin by clearing up a common misunderstanding: The polo shirt has absolutely nothing to do with the sport. The shirt was invented by French tennis player René Lacoste in 1933, but it wasn’t until 1972 that designer Ralph Lauren linked the shirt and the sport through an elaborate advertising campaign.
The “sport of kings” dates back more than 2,600 years to equestrian games played on large courts in ancient Persia. The British later discovered the game during their colonial rule of India and in 1859 founded the first polo club, the Cachar Club, in Silchar. Polo was an Olympic discipline five times (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936), but failed to establish itself. To this day, the sport has thus remained in its niche, along with its attributes: It is an elitist sport, often maligned as a game for rich men on small horses. And it isn’t for the faint of heart. But despite it all – or perhaps even more so because of it – it is an absolutely fascinating sport.
The “sport of kings” dates back more than 2,600 years to equestrian games played on large courts in ancient Persia.
Polo is especially popular in Argentina. An English farmer introduced the sport to Buenos Aires in 1877, and the first polo club in the country was established in 1888. English riding culture and the horseback life of the Gauchos complemented each other perfectly, and today the best players and horses come from Argentina. At one time, South American Arabians and English Thoroughbreds were the most popular crosses; today breeding is perfected through cloning and embryo transfer.
But even the best horse is of no use without the right technique. The field is up to 270 meters long and 145 meters wide, a relatively large surface for just eight players. If the riders simply go galloping back and forth without a good strategy, their horses won’t last for long. Polo once was the preserve of wealthy families, but these days there are associations around the world working to open up the sport to all. If that really is necessary is another question. A world of small universes is also very appealing.