Polo! People on horses with bamboo mallets trying to get a small bamboo ball between 2 goal posts on the correct end of a field that is 9 football ball fields in size.
Question: Want to come photograph this with me?
Answer: You had me at horses.
A very big THANK YOU goes out to Bob Hosker for not only asking us to come shoot this with him, but for also sharing his big lenses with us. Holly and I don’t do a lot of distance shooting, so we don’t have any long glass (very expensive 300-600mm lenses). Two days were spent roasting in the hot 90+ degree sun at the Twin City Polo Club’s (TCPC) fields, and it was an amazingly fun time.
A little background for those of you that don’t know anything about polo. Be aware that we didn’t know anything about polo before July 4th when we shot this. First of all, Polo is played on a field that is 300yards x 160yards; that’s ~10 acres of land. There are goals at each end of the field denoted by two poles that are 8 meters apart from each other. There are 2 teams of 4 players and 2 referees – all on horse back. Each player has a long flexible bamboo mallet and is required to use it in their right hand (no matter which hand is dominate for them). Each player has a number on their shirt from 1 to 4 which generally indicates the position they play.
- Number One is the most offensive position on the field.
- Number Two is the most difficult position on the field to play. The number 2 position(s) is an important offensive and defensive role.
- Number Three is the tactical leader.
- Number Four is the most defensive position.
The game is separated into periods called Chukkas or Chucker. There can be 4 Chukka and 6 Chukka games. Each Chukka is 7 minutes 30 seconds long. A warning horn or bell is sounded when there are 30 seconds left in the Chukka, and of course at the end. Each time a goal is scored, the teams switch goals. As a side note, each time a chucker is completed, the players change horses; this keeps the horses from getting exhausted or hurt. 2 teams of 4 players for a 6 chucker game would be: 8 players * 6 chukkas = 16 – 48 horses. Plus there are 2 referees who change out horses at half time = 4 horses, which makes the number of horses needed per game to be 20 to 52 horses. That’s a lot of horses! And each polo pony (as they are called) is usually specially trained thoroughbred horse. That’s a lot of dedication to a sport!
There are also a fair number of subtle rules that we didn’t manage to wrap our heads around in the two days we were there. But the game in general is a little like basketball, in that one of the rules is about fouling opponents. A player following the ball on its exact line has the ‘Right of Way’ over all other players. Any player who crosses the player on the Right of Way close enough to be dangerous, commits a foul. The player fouled gets a penalty shot. If the ball goes out of bounds, there is a hit in from where it went out of bounds. There are other things as well, but that is the general gist of the game. (If you are interested in learning more, please take a look at the Polo Rule book)
It’s a fun sport to watch and photograph – especially if you love horses (and animals in general) in motion like Holly and I do. The players are from all over the country and world, and are interesting, friendly and passionate about their sport. We’ll most likely go back to photograph more matches – just hopefully when it’s not so hot!