Polo in Argentina
No trip to Argentina would be complete without a glass of Malbec, an afternoon asado or getting to know a little of the sport that is polo.
British settlers first introduced polo in the Argentine pampas during the late-1800s. Today, Argentina is considered the “mecca of polo” and Argentine players, affectionately known as “hired assassins” in overseas circuits, are the best in the world. Here is a quick look into the basics of the game.
Score more goals than the opposing team by using a taco (mallet) to hit a bocha (ball) through arcos (goals posts).
Is the largest in sports measuring 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. Arcos are stationed at opposite ends with tablas (planks) along the sides to keep the bocha, and horses, in play.
Can be four, six or eight chukkers (periods). Friendly matches are four, professional are six and tournaments are eight chukkers in length. Each chukker is seven minutes long with an additional 30 seconds to conclude play.
Players and horses
Teams consist of four players and a shocking number of horses. Since players change horses each chukker, a six chukker polo match requires roughly 50 horses. Player positions are designated via a number system. Position #1 leads the offensive attack. Position #2 (the “bumper”) is defensively focused on recovering the bocha. Position #3 is the team captain and strategist with a substantial defensive role, while Position #4 is similar to a goalie in football or hockey. Handicaps are used to rank players and, as opposed to golf, the higher the handicap the better the player.
All players are required to wear kneepads, helmets and boots for protection. Horses don leg bandages, shaved manes and braided, banded tails for theirs.
The concept of the “imaginary line” is the most important rule for beginners to understand. An imaginary line is formed whenever the bocha is hit. The player who hits the bocha creates this line and is considered to have “right of way.” No other player is allowed to cross this line in front the player. Of course, there are exceptions even to this rule and the best way to get a better understanding of it all is to attend a polo match or partake in a lesson.
Lessons and professional matches
A number of companies offer full and half-day polo excursions from Buenos Aires. Argentina Polo Day offers the full polo experience at a verdent estancia and polo club 45 minutes north of Buenos Aires. The height of professional polo season runs from September to December in Buenos Aires when the three major polo tournaments, the Triple Corona (Triple Crown), take place. The season starts with the Tortugas Country Club Polo Open and continues with Hurlingham Club tournament and Argentine Polo Open Championship at the Campo Argentino de Polo in Palermo. Professional matches are broadcast live on television and tickets can be purchased online through Ticketek. For more on all things polo in Argentina visit the Argentinian Polo Association.
Photos taken while visiting Argentina Polo Day.