Polo in Argentina
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Polo in Argentina
While polo remains a popular sport in many countries throughout the world, there is no question that Argentina is home to the best players on an international level. Since 1949, Argentina has consistently been the World Champion in this exclusive and exciting game.
Buenos Aires is home to the Argentine Polo Open Championship, which begins in August and continues through December. This is the most important international polo event, and it has taken place annually since 1893. It is currently held in the Campo Argentino de Polo, popularly known as the “Cathedral of Polo”, and has been since 1928. Although the field was opened in 1918, it remains the world’s most comfortable and modern polo venue. It has also been also home to the America’s Polo Cup, in which the best team from the United States plays the best from Argentina. If you travel to Argentina take some time to go to one polo game, we can say it’s a must do activity!
The original Argentine fields opened in 1870, and they remain the most ideal place to play, even today. The sport, while thousands of years old, became the polo we know today in England, but it quickly made its way to the New World, where Argentine players adopted a version of the game, originally known as pato, and finally became excellent polo players. For more about pato, see this Argentina Travel Guide.
The game, which can be quite expensive when played seriously, is unique in that amateur players often play along seasoned professionals. While many fans and players are trying to make it a more accessible sport, it demands such a financial commitment that it is often reserved for either the wealthy or those who take it as a very serious hobby (or both).
The game consists of four players, each mounted on horseback. The horses must be of a certain quality and size, and are traditionally called polo ponies, although they are, in fact, full-sized horses. They must be 14.2 to 16 hands at the withers, and the most valued characteristics are speed, stamina, agility and maneuverability. Furthermore, the animal’s disposition is extremely important, as they must be able to handle extreme pressure and not be too excited or difficult to control. Some of the most sought-after horses in the world are Argentine, locally known as petisos. Polo ponies begin the 6- to 24-month training at age three, and while they generally reach their peak around age 7, many go on to play until they are 18 or 20, provided that they avoid injuries.
While there are only four players in polo, there are between 4 and 8 horses used, so the animals have a chance to rest. A well-trained horse can account for around 75% of a player-horse team’s success, so it is vital that the horses are in top condition.
The games are broken up into periods of time known as chuckers. Although there are several variations, the most common is 6 chukkas of 7 minutes each. Players, each of whom holds a different position with different responsibilities, work to hit a small wooden ball with a mallet, aiming to get the ball through one of the goals at the opposite ends of the field. The field is generally 300 yards long, and between 160 to 200 meters wide, and teams switch ends after every scored goal.
Argentina, as an international frontrunner in the sport, is currently home to over 3000 polo players. There is much national support for the game, as there are so many players to be proud of. And, while the game may not be completely accessible to play, it is very accessible for spectators, especially during the Polo Open, when tickets can be purchased for a wide variety of prices.
Polo has also made its way into Argentine fashion, with polo outfitting stores throughout the city. While it may be rare to see someone completely dressed in polo garb, it is easy to see the influence of this popular sport. Argentines are proud of their world standing in this unique sport, and while less than 20 countries worldwide play it on a professional level, Argentina remains the undisputed champion.