Recently, I had a chance to attend my first polo match. Yes sir, this girl lived out her “Pretty Woman” fantasy. No, I did not get a chance to share strawberries with Richard Gere in a fancy hotel and sing Prince songs in a bubble bath. I did get dressed up with a cute hat and watch the sport of kings. I figured out why they call it the sport of kings, because you clearly have to be heir to a small country to participate. I am talking you don’t get out of bed for less than $30K/day kinda rich. In this sport, don’t even bother coming to the field unless you have at least six horses on standby. The earliest written accounts, more than 2,000 years old, were in Persian, Arabic, Byzantine, Chinese and Japanese. It is currently played all over the world and has clearly stood the test of time.
The field was huge, maybe two or three times the size of an NFL field. Each team had four players who played six sets of seven and a half minute rounds called “chukkers.” Due to the constant starting and stopping, a single horse will normally only play one chukker per game. Even though this was my first polo experience, it was a pretty easy game to follow. The horses were absolutely beautiful and I found the fans to be extremely nice. I saw plenty of families and couples taking in the festivities on this warm summer day. There was alcohol and some food, but I mostly observed people drinking. I even entered the best hat contest and won a prize!
During half-time, attendees were invited to come unto the field and stomp divots. As the horses run up and down the field, grass and dirt are torn up by the horses quick starts, stops, and turns. This creates little holes in the ground that could lead to injury. Fans come out on the field with champagne and use their feet to stomp the dirt back into place. Safety for the horses is a priority. The mounted referees are very involved to make sure players and horses are unharmed.
I really enjoyed myself and think this is a great date night for anyone looking to do something different. This year, the Oak Brook Polo Club will host five matches. Tickets are $25 for nonresidents, which I think is pretty affordable. If you want to learn more, visit their website at http://www.chicagopolo.com/