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(Marco) Polo! October 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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Up until this past September, my only connection to the word “polo” was my elementary school indoctrination with the progenitor of the Spice Road Free Trade Corridor.

That changed when my sweetie Susan took me to an honest-to-God polo match, purportedly the only such match open to the unwashed masses here in jolly ol’ New England.

And people, as one of the 47%, I have to say I dug it.

The horses were very cool, little guys with a LOT of physical integrity:

…built for sharp turns, stop-and-go action, and smart as whips. Not your typical horse show dandies, I’d say.

The action was proscribed by rules of play, as in any legitimate sport. I didn’t know those rules, so just dug the action.

Full-on galloping passes:

For the riders, these matches are a mix of athleticism, strategy and butt-kicking riding skills, including one-handed reining (“Western style,” as I’m given to understanding):

Getting a horse to go where you want it to with one hand on the reins and the other swinging a big-ass mallet around its head is a feat which only happens after endless sessions of building skills and a level of trust worthy of much respect.

Given my dearth of knowledge about the game, I’ll let a few photos speak for the participants.

A mounted (and doubtless equally skilled) Ref monitors the action amidst a many-legged scrum:

Head-to-head races result in a ball being passed forward, here seen below the second chair from the right:

Passing back is as important a skill as shooting for a goal:

It’s an elegant, sweaty dance between horse and rider, with total focus a prerequisite to success:

The action speeds from one end of the field to the other, ball, mallets and hooves flying:

…with each strike of the ball being a coordination of horse and hands, and with a little luck, the depression of a very fast (1/2500th of a second) shutter:

For me, this wasn’t just a great introduction to the sport of polo; it was one of those days when the excitement of shooting takes over and everything else falls away. My apologies to my sweetie Susan who brought me to this revelation –  I hope you weren’t left too much alone as I was taken away by the task at hand. But the contagious energy of the charge toward the goal was powerful:

…as was the joy when a struck ball was perceived to be headed for the space between the goal posts:

Thanks to Susan for encouraging me to take a chance on photographing something I knew nothing about, to Gizmo for reeling in most of these shots, and to the Norfolk Hunt Club in Medford, MA for inviting the public in to watch this very special event.

I have a few more shots from the half-time entertainment in the hopper, and hope to get them posted soon.

But that’s enough for now.  😉

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Comments»

1. Jo - October 1, 2012

Great shots! I’m too chicken to ride polo.

The key for good riders is… most of your control is NOT in the reins. A really good rider can actually let the reins hang completely loose and start, stop, turn all they want. It is about your seat and your body way more than your hands. 🙂

That said, I’m not that good a rider. I’ve stopped a horse completely off my seat maybe once. I still rely on reins for help!

2. littlebangtheory - October 1, 2012

Jo, thanks for the insight. Part of the half-time entertainment was by a dressage master, whose subtle butt-flexing communicated everything necessary to make his stallion perform magic! 🙂

3. susan - October 2, 2012

I’ve never seen a polo match either so it was particularly nice to see your great pictures from the match. Thanks from me to your Susan who took you there and to Jo who mentioned the riding skill is related to dressage. That seems logical now I know.

littlebangtheory - October 2, 2012

Susan, yes, it’s a realm removed from my personal experience, but still intriguing to me. The power and the subtleties of riding and gaming on horses is a whole ‘nother world which I hope to explore going forward.


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