Summer nights enhanced by polo matches

Photo by Marcella Peyre-Ferry Two horses surround the ball.
Photo by Marcella Peyre-Ferry Horses and riders crowd up on the field.

By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY

For 21st Century Media

NEW GARDEN -- Horses are at the heart of Chester County, and with them equestrian sports of all kinds, including polo. “Polo is one of the ways in Chester County we keep open space open,” said Doug Jefferys noting that each polo field is nine times the size of a football field. “I takes a lot of land to play polo.”

Polo is a sport that is accompanied by tradition, and by contemporary trends. Each week, Brandywine Polo offers a traditional favorite Sunday afternoon polo matches where tailgaters come out in style to watch the fast paced sports and enjoy tailgate picnics with friends. For Fathers’ Day, some of the spectators will be coming in historic style, making their way to the grounds in horse drawn carriages.

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You can picnic like the original tailgaters, with gourmet food on silver, served from the back of an antique coach, or enjoy a more modern style with a meal from a picnic basket while you relax on a blanket or lawn chair. Polo fans can also kick off the weekend with Friday Twilight Polo that is accompanied by food, drink, music and dancing after the match.

“Polo is both a sport and a social activity,” Jefferys said. “People who go to polo tend to be gregarious and open. It’s a great social event.”

No matter how you choose to watch the matches, polo is fast paced action that can set your heart racing as you watch the horses gallop down the field, spin and sprint again in pursuit of the white ball.

The game is played with four players on each side. Arena polo, played on a smaller, enclosed field has three riders on a team. Players earn handicaps of up to 10 goals based on their skill. The players’ handicaps are added together to give a team handicap. The difference between the handicaps of opposing teams may be awarded to the lower ranked team at the start of the match.

“You don’t need to know the rules to enjoy the game,” Jefferys said. “The rules are all aimed at keeping the riders and horses safe.”

Matches are divided into 71/2 minute chukkers, with players sometimes switching to fresh horses between chukkers. The horses are pivotal to the sport, and as skilled as their riders.

“Polo is the only equestrian sport where the horse plays thee game as well as the rider,” Jefferys said. “For the most part, they’re quicker than the person on top of them.”

Watching a polo match you may get the desire to try it yourself. Brandywine Polo Club is happy to arrange instruction for new students, and will even provide experienced horses to help newcomers work on their skills.

“Starting out, it can be relatively inexpensive compared to other equestrian sports,” Jefferys said.

Brandywine Polo matches run now through late September. For more information, visit the Web site at www.brandywinepolo.com