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9 sport' a challenge to both mount and rider
t hear much about polo these days. There's
news piece about Prince Charles falling off
he Royal Grounds in London. And, of
s the apparel and cologne labels made fa
t part, however, polo isn't exactly high pri-
Sports Illustrated or ABC's Wide World of
SPN, a pay cable sports station that gives
most everv SDort known to man. rarelv. if
k the sport of kings.
doesn't come as much of a surprise when
what goes into the game both physically
y. For starters, the rules tend to be very com-
Y four people can play at any one time on
the person who has the straightest path to
!ias the legal right of way. Such strategy isn't
determined when the player and the pony
speeds that often exceed 35 mph.
say, it is also a real trick to stay on an ani-
tantly darts across the field in quest of a ball
h bigger than an ordinary baseball. One lo
ci South, recently played a match against a
ashington, and as an incentive to remain in
the saddle, anyone falling off his mount had to buy the
team a case of beer.
Danger is present for the mount as well as the rider. At
a recent match at Quail Roost in Durham spectators wit
nessed the near death of one of the ponies. A knowledge
able spectator surmised that the pony almost died from
acute stress and heat exhaustion. Especially active and
competitive ponies are kept on a high-protein diet which
makes them susceptible to high blood pressure and heat
The pony at Quail Roost was well-attended to as hun
dreds of people rushed forward with ice and cold water to
cool the animal. Despite the admirable cooperation of the
audience, it was not easy to overlook the fact that the ani
mals are pushed (often beyond their physical limits), and
a question of cruelty and inhumanity in the name of
good, clean fun came to mind. Some observers feel that
when an animal is forced to exceed its physical limits the
sport ceases to exist. Perhaps that is the reason polo
doesn't get much publicity.
Expense is one of the most prohibitive aspects of the
sport. Standard equipment includes everything from leath
er riding boots to a helmet, and mallets can cost anywhere
from $400 to $800-and-up. However, that doesn't include
other essential equipment such as the pony, riding gear
and boarding facilities. Then there is training, food,
health care, insurance, transportation, grooming and en
try fees. The total can easily exceed $100,000 per year.
Therefore, it stands to reason that only the wealthy can
afford to participate on the field. For years (since its con
ception) polo has been known as the sport of the elite.
Originally played exclusively by members of royalty, polo
is actually derived from the ancient sport of jousting.
Nowadays, however, the sport is played by men of almost
every description from all over the world.
A day at the polo grounds is an exciting one for the
spectators as well as the participants. Southern polo tends
to attract people from all walks of life. Aiken, S.C., is
known as the polo capital of the South, and it attracts
horse lovers both rich and poor.
Cars are driven through the gate openings and parked
right up to the field. Tailgate parties of every description
take form, and to an unfamiliar passerby, the grounds
look more like a large-scale celebration of life than a polo
match. Mercedes are parked next to Chevrolets, which are
parked next to Rolls Royces, which are parked next to
pick-up trucks. . .and although the curiosity seekers are
outnumbered 2-to-l (in most cases), everyone pays the
same admission price (usually $5 per person at one of the
For participants, polo can be dangerous and expensive,
but spectators are guaranteed a good time whether their
interest be ponies or partying.
:: r :
Tom Smith of Raleigh, above, suits
up for a polo match while his horse
"Bear looks on. At left, an exhausted
pony is sprayed down and wiped off.
Such measures are necessary to cool
off the overworked ponies and safe
guard their health.
r i n
i.j M W i
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'X I .
5:!3u.t cosmetic fjrr.ichcs
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Assorted Flavors QQrf
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Good Thru Quantity Rights Reserved Bott,e ww
Thursday, July 7, 1983 The Tar Heel 9