Polo!!! Yes indeed, at The Villages we have polo. The real deal. And like most every place in TV, it's golf cart accessible. Who'da thunk it when we moved here?
The polo season here at TV runs from March through May and then again in October through November. Our summer humidity is simply too brutal for man and beast to play such a fast paced game. And these horses are fast!
Friday Denny and I drove our golf cart up to the polo field for our first experience in watching the match. The folks on either side of us were quick to explain a bit about polo and the end referee wandered over to show us a polo ball and also to explain that the horses sometimes jumped the boards at the edges of the field when the rider was chasing after the ball so that we needed to be aware of the movement of the players and to stay back from the sidelines. The ref also informed us that when a ball was knocked out of bounds (on the other side of the boards) we would be allowed to keep the ball but only after the players were away from the sidelines and there was no chance that a horse might step on us. Fair enough. (Note: we were not lucky enough to be close when a ball came out of bounds, although one lucky fellow got two.) Lumpy little plastic balls that can go 160 mph when struck solidly.
The basics of the match are that the two teams start in the center of the field where a referee on horseback tosses the ball and then the team tries to get it to the goal they have chosen at the beginning of the match. After each goal, the teams switch ends of the field so that the next time they have to shoot the ball in the other direction to score. Each segment of game play is a chukker and there are six chukkers in a match. Each chukker lasts seven minutes. There is a half hour break after the third chukker, at which point the audience traipses onto the field to stomp down the divet marks and gouges on the field so the ball can roll smoothly when struck. Audience participation AND a chance to move around a bit while waiting for the second half of the match.
Watching the action from the sidelines. A golf cart view.
Most of the beautiful animals being ridden at the polo fields are American thoroughbred horses. Each team member brings several horses with him and the horses are switched out multiple times throughout the match, giving the animals time to catch their breath. The riders get their break midway through the match.
There are two matches each on Fridays and Sundays; if you arrive and pay for the first match you can stay for the second match for free. On Fridays, $5 a person gets you a seat on the sidelines in your car or golf cart and tailgating is allowed and even encouraged.
And so goes another day in The Villages.