The Sport of Kings
It is believed that polo is more than 2,000 years old. Although we don’t know exactly how the game began, it was originally used for training cavalry and was probably first played by nomadic warriors. Popular in antiquity from Constantinople to Persia, China and Japan, polo’s first recorded match was between the Turks and the Persions in 600 B.C.
It wasn’t until the mid-19th century, however, that a British captain created the first written rules for the game. The oldest active club today, the Calcutta Polo Club, was founded in India in 1863. British military and explorers introduced the game to the West, and it became a staple. By the 1870s, the sport was well established in England and had found its way to the U.S.
The United States Polo Association was founded in 1890 to coordinate games, standardize rules and establish handicaps. The 1930s were a golden age for polo, played by notable stars such as Walt Disney and Will Rogers. It was an Olympic sport in those days, and Disney made a Mickey Mouse cartoon about it. Sadly, WWII meant tightening belts and the sport fell by the wayside. By the 1960s, though, polo regained its footing, and the following decade brought huge growth and change, as corporate sponsorship became more common.
By the 1980s, global professional players had replaced the talented amateurs from polo-playing families, and the stakes were high. Yet no longer was polo a pastime only for wealthy aristocrats and celebrities. Membership increased, as did the percentage of women playing. Denver Polo Club embraces modern polo, bring the sport to people of all ages and abilities.
Today, more than 50 million people per year play polo in more than 60 countries. There are more than 250 active polo clubs in the United States Polo Association. The highest levels are played in Argentina, the U.K. and the U.S. Finding a quality pony is key to success in the sport. Just one in ten horses is suitable and only one in 100 become a top pony.
At Denver Polo Club, we carefully choose and train our own talented ponies, and some of our members have purchased their own. As long as there are horses, there will be polo. Although the game has seen innovations, it has changed little in essentials. It remains a kingly sport—but is now one that anyone with guts can play.