Hawaii Polo History
- Polo's history in Hawaii dates back to the last decades of the 19th century and is intimately intertwined with the culture of the "Paniolo," the Hawaiian cowboy. Colorful, romantic and dramatic, the paniolo tradition is that classic blending of East, West and Polynesia which defines the best of Hawaii Polo, the most exciting and consuming of horse sports, was a natural outgrowth of the Hawaiian cowboy's love of horses, excitement and drama.
- That polo was introduced in Hawaii not via America, but from Asia, through an Australian cowboy visiting from India, is even more proper and fitting to the multi-cultural, ethnic blending which helps define our island culture in Hawaii.
- On the environmental side, the polo fields of Hawaii are like a necklace of emeralds spread across the island chain. Each different, yet each one a jewel of rich green open space helping to preserve the natural beauty of the area in which is is located. From the mountain vistas of Makawao to the beachfront of Anini Beach and Mokuleia and to the towering Koolaus in Waimanalo, the polo clubs of Hawaii are blessed with the most scenically stunning polo fields anywhere. Although the polo season varies from island to island and club to club, with our temperate climate Hawaii polo can be found somewhere in the islands at almost any time of the year. So it is that we invite you to enjoy the spectacle of polo in Hawaii, to partake of the tradition of the game and enjoy the beautiful settings of the polo fields themselves!
To Learn more about polo visit:
United States Polo Association
PoloCollege is intended as a free source of Polo Knowledge. Through the combined efforts of some dedicated polo people, some who are no longer with us. In this new digital age it is now accessible vis a vis Internet. Developed since 1985 without cost to the polo association.
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Here are our 2009 polo players here at the Hawaii Polo Club.
- Mike Dailey (Club President)
- Bryant LaPorte
- Mark Becker
- Val Baliad
- Chris Dawson
- Siri Masterson
- Devon Dailey
- Gordon Smith
- Ronnie Tongg
- Ryan Tongg
- Ruston Tongg
- Sam Delgado
- Bill Wyland
- Raymond Noh
- Tiamo Hudspeth
- Jesse Neuwirth
- Tiare Paty
- Professional Players
- Enrique Diaz
- Julian Alvarez
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What types of horse breeds are popular for polo ponies? All types. A polo pony can be a horse of any size or breed that is used to play polo.
Polo ponies are asked to do a lot. They run fast and stop and turn on a dime. They must be comfortable getting bumped while running at full speed. And every once in a while, the horses and riders do get hit with a mallet or a ball. Some horses are not only good at playing polo ... they love playing polo!
It has often been said that "If your horse can't get to the ball, you can't hit it." In essence, the quality of a player's horse, or mount, has a direct effect on his performance. Polo ponies are known for their heart, speed, wind stamina and the ability to stop and turn quickly and thoroughbreds usually make the best polo ponies.
A pony's trainer strives to make him/her agile and responsive to every command and impulse of the rider. Often, the horse becomes so familiar with the game that s/he can anticipate various shots and maneuvers.
In the course of a high-goal, faced-paced polo game, the players and horses may gallop as much as 120 miles or 193.1 kilometers. At an average pace of 35 miles per hour or 56.3 kilometers per hour, it is clear to see why horses are changed after each 7 minute period or chukker.
During polo games to keep the horses safe and comfortable, their tail are tied up so they do not get tangled in the player's mallet. Their legs are bandaged for both support and protection against contact the the ball. Polo ponies also typically have their mane shaved so the hair does not get tangled in the reins and are carefully groomed to prevent interference with the mallet.
Like many sporting events that name a Most Valuable Player, in a polo game, a Best Playing Pony is named for the most valuable horse. A well deserved award for their hard work!
What's A Green Horse?
To many of us the term “green horn” is reminiscent of such TV westerns as “Gunsmoke”, “Maverick” and “Bonanza”. A “green horn” was a newcomer, someone who hadn’t yet been broken in to the ways of the Wild West. The same semantic sense of “green” holds with its use in the term “green horse” when applied to a polo pony. A “green horse” is a horse that has not yet been seasoned to the game of polo. S/he must be brought into the game cautiously and carefully. A player trying to “make” a green horse into an accomplished polo pony must be judicious in his/her choice of which plays to put the horse into, and which one to avoid. Too hard of a bump may frighten the horse and make him/her timid. Too many fast runs can result in a horse that tries to take off at full speed every time the ball is hit.
A new polo pony must be taught many things in order to excel at the game. By the time s/he comes to the stage of playing “green horse polo”, the horse should already be well-broken and have a good “handle” (the ability to stop, turn, neck rein, half turn and quarter turn and to work off his/her back legs). Teaching a horse to respect the bit, respond to the legs and to rein properly (to work off the back legs like a reining horse, and the front legs like a cutting horse) is an art and a skill all in its own and takes months of daily schooling to achieve.
After these basics, a new polo pony must be taught to “stick and ball”, to be comfortable with a player swinging a mallet off his/her back on both side, under the neck and behind the tail, and accustomed to the sound of a mallet hitting a ball. After getting accustomed to the swing of the stick and the hitting of the ball s/he is taught to approach the ball properly - not too far away, not too close, an holding steady all the while.
This accomplished, the trainer can now begin to play the horse in “green horse” chukkers - non tournament play, where the pace is slower and much less competitive. In this atmosphere, the horse learns to meet other horses without turning away, to ride other horses off and to take a “bump” without hesitating. The trainer also continues to work on the horse’s responsiveness, teaching him/her to jump out quickly, to stop and turn even more quickly and to alternate speeds.
This last is known as “giving a horse gears” and this is the trait of a truly well trained polo pony. A polo pony that can go from stop to top speed at the squeeze of the legs and back down again at the gentle tug of one’s fingers is a valuable horse, indeed, and can do wonders for a player’s game.
The training process, however, is a long one. Most horses which make it to the top spend at least a full season playing slower, more concentrated green horse polo before being exposed to tournament play. That first season of the tournament play is also a cautious one, with the trainer watching closely the horse’s progress and state of mind. For the most common pitfalls in bringing a new horse into the game is pushing the animal too fast or putting him/her into fast competitive play before s/he’s really ready. (The result of this error is most commonly a horse becoming “rapid”, i.e. wanting to run off at high speed every time the play takes off around him/her, or the ball is struck - and not wanting to slow down or stop without a struggle on the rider’s part.)
The evolution of a polo pony prospect, from a green horse to a well made finished polo pony takes anywhere from 2 to 3 seasons, with many potential pitfalls along the way. This helps explains why good polo ponies are worth so much money and why players are so attached to their horses and put so much time and effort into it for the sake of these magnificent athletes.
Endless training, a lot of patience and time involved, but definitely worth all of the effort to have a hose with Polo Soul.
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Horse Jobs: What does it take to be a polo groom?
The horse is the single most important element in polo, which is a physically demanding game for both horse and rider. A polo horse must enjoy the game, be unafraid of what we are asking of him, and be in top shape in order for him and his rider to perform at their maximum potential. Think about it, without the horse it would just be hockey.
The groom takes care of nutrition, exercise, equipment, schedule and general well being of the horses. To be a groom is to truly live the equestrian lifestyle. A typical day will start out with breakfast, served to the horses as early as possible. Horses usually get alfalfa cubes, pellets and/or hay and free graze on grass from their pastures. After breakfast is served, it's time for general work around the barn. Mowing, fixing fences, and cleaning tack (the saddles and bridles) are just a few of the tasks to attend to. Like many horse jobs, not all the work is directly with the horses. After chores, it's off to afternoon exercise.
Polo horses typically have a long vacation during the off season (winter) and to get them back into shape takes a while, rule of thumb being one week of leg up for every month off. The horses start with walking in the first few weeks, then trotting for the next few, and cantering when the horses are finally strong enough.
Young horses must be schooled every day to get used to the stick, ball and noise it creates when the two come together. When they are comfortable with the stick and ball, they get introduced to the traffic on the polo field by first being an umpire horse and then eventually playing practice chukkers. It takes years to train a horse to be a polo veteran.
During the peak of the season, grooms must take special care to maintain the horses' physical health, which includes preventing and attending to injury. Horses legs are especially prone to accidents since their legs are so petite compared to the rest of their body mass. Before the game, horses' legs are wrapped with a special bandage and protected with an over-boot. The bandages must be wrapped in a particular way and this wrapping is an essential skill of the groom: not too tight, not too lose.
Finally, after a long day of polo, the groom double-checks for any injury during the game. He feeds his horses their well earned dinner and puts his beloved string to bed. He then goes to the asado (grill) to eat his well earned meal as the sun sets and yet another day ends on the polo field. Horse jobs will tire you out but they are so much fun!
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Being familiar with the polo rules and structure will make it much easier to better appreciate and enjoy the true elegance of this sport of kings.
To begin the game, the four players from each team line up parallel to each other in the middle of the field, facing the sidelines. The play commences when a ball is thrown by either a referee (there are two mounted referees and one on the sidelines) or a visiting dignitary.
Each team strives to drive the ball down the field toward the opponent's goal. Action during each period is continuous until a goal is scored, a foul detected or until the ball is driven from the field of play.
The game is divided into four periods called chukkers. Each of these lasts 7 minutes.
Any time a ball crosses the line between the goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or a mallet was responsible. After every goal is scored, the teams change sides. This practice compensates for factors such as wind and turf conditions.
Basic Polo Rules
Good polo is graceful to watch, but in reality it is a rough fast game which is riddled with dangers. Thus, the principle governing the polo rules is safety. There are many rules designed to protect the rider and horse from injury, but the basic polo rule is: Do not cross the "line of the ball" referring to the imaginary line created by the ball if there is any chance of endangering players who are in their correct lanes.
The player who last hit the ball on his/her right side (also known as the offside) has the right of way over the other players, provided s/he stays in his/her lane. An opponent may try for this line, provided that s/he does not cross in front of the player that has the right of way, or attempt to check his/her opponent's mallet (however, it is not permitted to reach across, in front of, or over or behind the opponent's horse to complete the hook or check).
You may be surprised to know that in polo rules, it is legal to "run the other player off the road," as long as it is done by making contact with the horses traveling at approximately the same speed, shoulder to shoulder, at an angle of less than 45 degrees.
When a foul has been committed, the umpire signals with a blow of the whistle and a free hit is awarded to the fouled team.
Each team is composed of four players and each player performs a specific function according to the number s/he wears. Unlike other sports, the players are known by their position number rather than their position name. Familiarizing yourself with the key responsibilities will aid in both understanding and enjoying the game and the polo rules.
Number 1 - The Forward: The 1's primary responsibility is offensive. As a rule, it is this player who will attempt the most shots at the goal. Relying on passes from teammates, for this player accuracy is essential as opposed to distance. In addition, s/he is responsible for taking the opposing Number 4 out of the game.
Number 2 - The Hustler: This player also concentrates on offensive, but at the same time must cover Number 3 defensively. S/he should remain constantly moving in pursuit of the play. It is said that "a good Number 2 has his/her nose in every play."
Number 3 - The Pivot: Also referred to as the Pivot Man or Quarterback, this spot is usually reserved for the best and most experienced player on the team. This position presents a real challenge: not only must s/he feed balls to players Number 1 and 2, but s/he must also uphold a strong defense. The ability to hit long accurate shots while anticipating an opponent's next maneuver are crucial skills.
Number 4 - The Back: This player's chief concern is defense. S/he must have an excellent backshot and be a powerful hitter on throw-ins, as s/he is the last line of defense between the opponents and the goal. However, often times a good Number 3 will "bring his/her back through" on offense and will then cover the 4 position him/herself until the play changes.
The Polo Handicap
Shortly after polo was introduced in the United States, The Handicap (or skill rating) was established. This system was designed to assure both players and spectators of the best match possible between two teams.
The United States Polo Association bestows each registered player with a rating on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 10 (the highest). The vast majority of players in the United States are 2 goals or less. Players with a handicap of 4 or more are, for the most part, considered professionals. Throughout the whole world of polo, only a handful of players will ever earn the distinction of being a 10 goal player. Although the word "goal" is frequently used after the digit, it relates to a player's ability, not the number of goals s/he might score.
The team's handicap is the sum total of its players' ratings. In handicap matches, the team with the higher handicap will compensate the lower rated team by awarding them the difference in ratings.
The National Handicap Committee reevaluates individual ratings on an annual basis. They base their distinctions on the following factors:
Horsemanship: Coordination between horse and rider is essential. A poor rider on a good mount won't be contributing much to the team. To put it another way - it doesn't matter how well you hit the ball if you can't get to it first!
General Value to the Team: A player must keep in mind that polo is not an individual sport, but a tight-knit team game that requires a great deal of interchange and flexibility between positions. It is this factor that makes polo so different from other team sports.
Game Sense: What makes polo a thinking man's game. A player's ability to anticipate the actions of the opponent intelligently and strategically. A player with good anticipation is able to save his/her horses by not having to constantly "chase" the ball.
Hitting: At a high speed, this is not as easy as it might appear. It's important that a player learn to control the direction, flight and force of the ball.
Team Play: This pertains to a player's understanding of his/her position and the responsible attitude s/he maintains towards his/her performance as it relates to the overall cohesion of the teams.
Quality of Horses: A good pony will definitely contribute towards better play.
Now that you've got the polo rules down, let's go watch polo!
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