The Sport of Kings—Arena Polo, ASFESTR’s 9th Stop

Kings SportWelcome back to our Structure for Every Style Trail Ride. The journey out west was fun, but now it’s time to head back to eastern territory where we’ll conclude our trail ride. This week is our second-to-last stop and it is vastly different from our other stops. Prepare yourself for the competitive world of arena polo.

Old worldOld world
It is believed that polo originated in India about 2,500 years ago, making it one of the oldest team sports in the world. Often referred to as the “sport of kings,” arena polo is just like regular polo, but is played in an arena or on an enclosed, all-weather surface instead of on an open field grass. The playing field for arena polo is 100’wide x 300′ long wide the side wall height being at least 4′ tall. These measurements make the field much smaller than traditional polo fields, causing the sport to be played at a slower speed, with less maneuvering due to less available space.

Born in the USABorn in the USA
Arena polo started in 1910 in the United States at the Manhattan Riding Academy. Bringing polo off the field and into an arena allowed teams to play and train any time of day, year round. It used to be an Olympic sport and was played professionally in 16 countries. Although mounts are called polo ponies, they are actually full-sized horses. Thoroughbreds are the most common breed for arena polo due to their quick bursts of speed, stamina, agility and maneuverability.

ChukkaChukkas’ switch-a-roo
The rules of arena polo are slightly different than field polo, and can vary from country to country. Each team consists of three players. Four periods (chukkas), each 7 ½ minutes, make up the duration of the game. Riders must switch horses at the end of each chukka. Many players bring two horses with them and alternate every chukka.

He shoots, he scoresHe shoots
The footing should consist of dirt allowing the ball (which looks like a smaller version of a soccer ball) to bounce off its uneven surface or off of the walls. Goals are on each end of the arena and should be 10′ wide x 15′ tall. A team gets a point when they successfully hit the ball with their mallet into the other team’s goal. Three officials are involved in the game. Two ride ponies and the third is on the side of the playing field. Fouls can be called and are most commonly given when a player gets too aggressive with their polo pony or their mallet.

ClearSpanClearSpan, the king of fabric arenas
Although arena polo’s playing fields are smaller than traditional polo’s fields at 100′ wide x 300′ long they still aren’t considered small. Luckily, ClearSpan Fabric Structures can accommodate buildings from 20′ to 300′ wide and at any length. Since arena polo is a spectators’ sport we’d even recommend going bigger to accommodate seating, bathrooms and even a concessions stand.

Polo arenas also require at least 4′ side wall clearance, a regulation Hercules Truss Arch Buildings can meet with ease. Our 100′ wide buildings’ side walls start at 14′ tall and can be increased depending on the building’s foundation options or customized design. This feature may raise the excitement level of the game from increased speed and maneuvering due to additional space.

ClearSpanSince arena polo is such a competitive sport the more practice a team gets, the better they perform. With Hercules Truss Arch Buildings, teams can play day or night, rain or shine. The translucent fabric of our covers allows abundant natural light to enter into the arena making the environment bright and enjoyable to practice in. Most days riders could practice for 10 hours before a light would have to be turned on. Also, the buildings have better temperature stability making riding or viewing during extremes in weather more enjoyable.

I’ve never had the opportunity to watch arena polo; the closest I’ve ever seen was with traditional polo while watching the movie Pretty Woman. Arena polo does seem like a very fun and exciting competitive equine sport. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy our 10th and final stop just as much as this one on our structure for every style trail ride conclusion. Next week’s stop—vaulting.

Riders have to change horses between each chukka, how would you determine which horse to ride in each chukka and do you think the horses ever get jealous?

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