Before coming to Buenos Aires I had never thought about going to a polo match. It did not sound appealing, watching people trot around on horses and occasionally hitting a ball with a mallet. I envisioned a lot of rich people all up on their high horses casually prancing about while spectators discussed matters of importance. Even though I was excited to see my predictions come true, my perceptions were drastically different from reality. The game, the crowds, and the overall environment were different from the images I had formulated in nearly every facet.
First off, polo is an intense game. Within the first ten minutes there was a heated squabble between two players and a woman got hit by an aberrant pass that sent the ball into the stands. Furthermore, the players don’t ‘trot’ around, they are constantly at a gallop or making rapid turns and miraculously staying atop their horses. Coming from a family with a few horses and a decent knowledge of how to ride, seeing what these players were doing was incredible. Just riding like them takes an inordinate amount of skill and comfort on a large rapidly moving animal. Even more impressive is the fact that while they are riding around like cowboys fleeing a gun fight, they are also hitting a tiny ball with a long skinny mallet. The amount of balance and hand-eye coordination that they have to posses is supernatural.
Secondly, the event was not as bourgeois as I had envisioned. Even though the sport is known for being high class, the crowds seemed like normal people enjoying their Sunday afternoon. There was not an abundance of over sized hats, white pants, and classic polo shirts. I didn’t overhear people talking about what families they belonged to and how annoying social mobility was. People were taking in the sun and occasionally applauding a good play in a relaxed environment. Note: Although the crowd was not as pretentious as they could have been, the game is noticeably a sport for wealthier people since they are the only people that have the time and the resources to ride around with friends and hit a ball on a large grass field.
Finally, the game was way more complex than I had thought. There are a lot of mysterious rules and strategies in Polo. Trying to figure out why the referee blew his whistle and what was happening next was difficult. Apparently the way that the players can ride is determined by the direction the ball is going and the position of the other riders. If they cut another player off, or obstruct the rider in a certain manner, it is considered a foul and the play is stopped. Generally I was in the dark but it was still fun to watch. If you are as new to the game of polo as I was, looking up the rules before you go would help to clarify some of the more subtle rules and tactics that the players abide by.
I definitely recommend checking out a game if there is one while you’re here. The game I went to was a pretty high profile game and still only cost about 7 USD. Bring a hat and shades because you will be in the sun for a while. The games are long so if you show up late and with a few beers in the system it probably won’t be the worst decision that you’ve made…
Happy Horsing Around
If you want to learn more about Polo visit our Spanish School in Buenos Aires