SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Polo is a game played on horseback between two teams of four players, each using mallets with long, flexible handles to drive a wooden ball down a grass field and between two goal posts.
According to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, the sport of polo is older than recorded history. Its origins are in the inspirational relationship between humans and horses.
This special bond and the unique blending of athletic talents between horse and rider have helped polo evolve into the so-called sport of kings.
Polo has a strong legacy in the city of Savannah that began with Georgia National Guard soldiers who loved the sport so much, that they decided to do something about it.
They organized the Savannah Polo Club on Nov. 3, 1924, for the purpose of promoting and enjoying polo. Membership was open to members of the United States Army and Navy. Members paid dues to be a part of the club.
This is not surprising because, according to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, for many years, the Army supported polo, beginning in 1896 at Fort Riley, Kansas. Beyond improving the riding skills of cavalrymen, polo taught leadership, teamwork and strategy.
West Point introduced polo in 1901. By 1914, there were 17 Army posts playing polo.
In 1928, the Army team made it to the final of the U.S. Open, and there were Army polo teams across the U.S. as well as in the Philippines, Hawaii and Panama.
Unfortunately, the final match for the Savannah Polo Club was played on Feb. 24, 1929. The club was succeeded by the Artillery Polo Club, which lasted only a few months.
Savannah hasn’t been completely void of polo since then, as the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has an equestrian program. Their team participated in a polo match in South Carolina in honor of the Polo 4 Heroes, a nonprofit organization that supports wounded military heroes.
Charity polo competitions are not uncommon around the world. For example, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William participated in an Out-Sourcing Inc. Royal Charity Polo Cup in Windsor Great Park to raise funds and awareness for various organizations.
There are not an overwhelming amount of opportunities to play polo for fun in Savannah. That’s perhaps because some locals may agree with the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which says: “We can connect with horses in our care and have a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship with these sensitive animals without climbing on top of them.”
Or perhaps, some think the sport, in general, is too expensive. After all, it is known as the sport of kings.
“The sport of polo is often viewed as a rich man’s sport, but polo can be enjoyed by horse lovers from all walks of life and by all ages, from youth to retirees,” said Barbara Parker, club manager of Overbrook Polo in Aiken County, South Carolina.
She continued: “Polo can be an adrenaline rush, or played simply for the enjoyment of horses, teamwork, camaraderie, fresh air and healthy outdoor exercise.”
“At Overbrook, local players travel from around South Carolina and Georgia to join local players and enjoy a relaxed day of casual, friendly polo that welcomes all levels,” Parker said. “Polo can be full of glamour and glitz, but in Wagener, it’s played by everyday community members just for the love of horses and the joy of the sport.”
Concerning seeing Savannah’s fire ignited once again in the sport, Brenda Lynn, director of development at the Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame said: “Savannah is a wonderful town of great historic significance.
“I can’t imagine anything more fitting than resurrecting the playing of the world’s oldest surviving organized team sport there,” she added.