STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Have you ever been curious about polo? No problem, area polo clubs have you covered. Attending a local match can answer your questions, can be fun and be easy on your pocket, too.
“It’s two hours of entertainment,” said Belinda Brody, Assistant Manager of the Brandywine Polo Club, near Kennett Square. “You don’t have to dress up. We just want you to come.”
The club even publishes a program, available at the fields, listing the game’s equipment, terms, rules and fouls.
With a season that runs from May through September, matches — which are every bit as much of a social event as they are sporting events — are held Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. “Fridays we usually have a band and a food vendor,” said Brody, who is also the club’s polo school manager.
Friday general admission is $15 per person, $10 for students, free for children under 12 and seniors 75 and older.
Sunday afternoon matches, when tickets are $10 and still free for children under 12 and seniors 75+, are famous for tailgating. “Some people bring a full-on grill and a pop-up tent. Some just bring a six-pack of beer,” said Brody.
A member of the United States Polo Association, Brandywine plays against clubs from Lancaster County, Maryland and New York. They also have a USPA regional rival in Erwinna. “We play at the Tinicum Park field on River Road,” said Hesham El-Gharby, founder and Manager of the Tinicum Park Polo Club.
Tinicum Park’s matches are held at 2 p.m. Saturdays and usually draw crowds of anywhere from 300-700, according to El-Gharby. Admission is $10 per car and you should bring your own seating.
Picnicking/tailgating with food, snacks, soda, wine and beer is the thing to do in Tinicum as well. Those with social member status get the perk of a tent with private seating and food.
“We offer a friendly, relaxed environment and welcome you to stroll around the horse trailers before the game and during halftime,” says the Tinicum Park Polo Club website. “Ask players to sign an authentic polo ball for a keepsake. And be sure to bring your camera because our polo ponies (the affectionate nickname for the horses) and players love to pose.”
There are special events throughout the season, including weekend tournaments, the Work to Ride Benefit Match on Sept. 12, “Wine and Polo” during the Sept. 26 finale of the Sportsmanship Cup, and more.
During the 10- to 15-minute halftime, spectators are invited to walk onto the field, socialize and stomp back into place the turf divots caused by the hooves of the athletic and agile horses during the first half. “That’s a tradition that the Queen of England started. The people love it,” said El-Gharby.
The USPA’s website advises women planning to participate in this halftime ritual to not wear heels to the match. “Still known as the ‘sport of kings,’ you will find many stylish spectators, but depending on the location and type of polo event, sporty, relaxed dress is usually acceptable. The game has become more of a family event so when it comes to fashion, you are sure to spot everything on the sidelines from casual to couture,” says uspolo.org.
Both clubs also offer opportunities to learn how to play the game and memberships. For match schedules, directions to the fields and more information, visit www.tinicumparkpoloclub.org or call (908) 996-3321, or visit www.brandywinepolo.com or call (610) 268-8692.
STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
“The rules of polo are designed for the safety of the horse and the rider,” said Brandywine Polo Club assistant manager Belinda Brody. “It’s helpful (understanding the game) if you’re a rider.”
But if you’re not, here’s a crash course in polo:
There are four players on each side.
Polo’s periods of play are 7.5-minute “chukkers.” There are four to six chukkers per match. Breaks between chukkers are three minutes long, plus halftime. There are stoppages of play for fouls, injuries and whenever someone changes horses.
A polo pony plays for a maximum of two non-consecutive chukkers per match. The horses are either thoroughbreds or thoroughbred crosses, weighing between 900 and 1,100 pounds.
The fields are 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. An eight-yard wide goal, marked by ten-foot high goal posts, is centered on each end of the field.
An official begins the match, and resumes action from a stoppage of play, with a throw-in of the ball.
All players must hit right-handed for safety reasons.
The jersey numbers are always 1, 2, 3 and 4. No. 1 and 2 are the primarily offensive players. The team captain usually wears No. 3 and plays a position equivalent to a midfielder in soccer. No. 4 is the defender.
The two mounted umpires call fouls for dangerous riding or use of the mallet. The penalty for a foul can be anything from a free hit to a free goal for the opposing team. There’s a “third man” sideline official that settles any ruling dispute among the umpires.
The player that last strikes the ball has the right of way and no one else can cross the invisible line of the ball in front of that player. Riding alongside a player with the right of way is allowed, as long as his way is not hindered. The most common foul called is crossing the line of the ball.
A player may use his mallet to block or interfere with an opponent’s swing by hooking the other player’s mallet.
A bump, or ride-off, is used to break an opponent’s concentration, move him off the line of the ball or ruin his shot. When one player rides alongside and makes contact with his opponent to lead him away from the ball, it is called a ride-off. A ride-off is permissible only at a 30-degree angle and at the horse’s shoulder.
Teams switch ends after each goal is scored.
All club players are assigned a “handicap,” ranging from -2 (beginner) to 10 (most skilled player). Players’ handicaps are added together to form a team that is equal to its competition. The difference in goals between two teams is awarded to the lower rated team before play begins.
Sources: www.tinicumparkpoloclub.org, www.brandywinepolo.com, www.uspolo.org.