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Historians have traced the origins of polo back over 2,500 years ago. The sport of Polo holds its roots in the remote times, is believed to have developed in the far east, specifically Persia. It is the first team sport to have ever occurred.
The cavalry used polo as a training exercise, for both rider and horse.
The Moguls who took the game from Persia to the east, leading to the spread of the sport. The strategic game resembles military tactics, and while the game has adapted throughout time, the core concepts remain.
With British colonisation of India, British tea planters discovered the game being played by Manipuri settlers, on the Burmese border with India. The world’s first polo club was formed at Silchar in 1859, west of Manipur. The oldest club in the world which is still in existence is the Calcutta Club, established in 1862.
In 1868, the game was introduced to Malta by troops returning to England from India. In 1869, an officer stationed at RAF base Aldershot read an account of a polo match and, with fellow officers, organised the first polo game in England. Then known as “hockey on horseback,” it was played on a field at Hounslow Heath.
The Sydney Polo Club lays claim to being the first polo club in the southern hemisphere, having been formed only a year later in 1870.
The first real rules of the game were formulated in India in the 1870s.
The game then travelled from England to New York City in 1876. The match was played with a bunch of mallets and balls and a railroad car of Texas cow ponies. The United States Polo Association was founded in 1890. Australia was not yet a federated nation and in 1892 the New South Wales Polo Association was formed.
Polo is played in over 77 countries with efforts being made by the International Polo Federation (FIP) to return it to the Olympics. It was played in the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936. It is still a recognised sport under the International Olympic Committee.
It is most popular in Argentina, England and the United States which currently comprise over half of the world’s players.
The game takes its name from the Tibetan word for the willow root ‘pulu’, which the ball was commonly made. The polo ball is now made of plastic. However, the mallets, true to tradition, are still made from bamboo.