The equestrian sport of polo can be described as croquet, hockey or even soccer on horses. With a mallet in one hand and the reins of the horse in another, polo is a sport unlike any other on the CSU campus.
At the collegiate level, it is more commonly referred to as arena polo due to its small field size of 300 feet in length and 150 feet in width. Three players on each team take the field in each of four chukkers.
Chukkers are equivalent to quarters, lasting seven minutes and 30 seconds in length. Players on the field are broken down into player one as the forward, player two as the midfielder and player three as the defense — all three can attack the goal while hitting a small air-filled ball, similar to a soccer ball.
“The game is complicated itself,” captain Kareem Rosser said. “There are rules, but the rules are built around the horses’ safety and then the players’ safety comes second. During a game you got to kind of think of driving and there is that invisible line. You have to respect that line in that you are not going to cross it without putting your turn signal on.”
The rules of polo are easily related to driving down an interstate. To change lanes, it is best to put your turn signal on before changing lanes. The same goes in polo. If the player changes direction in the arena too quickly, it not only puts the horse at risk, but the other players around him as well.
“Sometimes an automatic goal is awarded if the foul is really dangerous,” Rosser said. “It is a contact sport. You are allowed to bump other players but it has to be in a certain way, be shoulder-to-shoulder or the horses heads needs to be head-to-head.”
Penalties in polo vary on the severity. While polo players do not sit in a penalty box like hockey players do, opponents are awarded either an open net or penalty shot from the penalty line. If the player misses the ball, it is then in play, otherwise the ball goes back to the center line.
Play resumes in polo as the umpire or referee bowls the ball down the center of the arena. Players on each side face the goal and it is a race to be the first to strike the ball.
“It is not as hard of a concept to grasp than people would think,” Rosser said. “It comes natural after a while to ride and shoot at the same time. We take practices very seriously and that is why we have been so successful this season and for the last several.”
CSU practices during the week as well as cares for the horses. Like any other sport, practice makes perfect in polo as players perfect its swing on the ball and its accuracy when running full speed on a horse.
The majority of the 2013-14 season took place in the fall, though preparation for nationals is picking up in March and into April. CSU has an 8-1 record on the season, its only loss coming from Cornell in overtime, which is a shootout on a open net.
CSU is pursuing a goal of nationals with its first game back from the winter break Friday at 6 p.m. against Harvard University at the B.W. Pickett Arena. Tickets are five dollars for adults.
“The main reason behind tomorrow’s game against Harvard is because they are one of the top national contenders,” Polo President Ryan Hattara said. “So this game is really just to build promotion for the club and get fans to come out the game because Harvard is a well-known team all across the country, as well as recognized on the collegiate level. This is a big game for us and it is not to be taken lightly.”
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.