Monday, April 18, 2011


Last weekend I attended the Cornell Men’s Polo match against Connecticut. A sport generally hidden from the normal gaze of Americans who are blinded by visions of different more local sports, Polo has been around since the 4th century and has always been a relatively expensive sport (and subsequently royal and noble one). This leads to one conclusion as to why it is not in the forefront of Americans eyes. However, after viewing this event for the first time I became an instant fan and realized the precision, dedication, strength, finesse, grace, power, and control both the players and the horses exude on the field. However, the thing that struck me the most was the downright physically violent nature of the game.

As someone who always felt riding horses was a leisurely and relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon, seeing these six players (three on each team) brutally bash into one another made my jaw drop. I was told before the match that the game was ‘hockey on horseback’ and skeptically accepted the notion, being a huge hockey fan I felt as this might be an overstatement…however, I could not have been more wrong. Imagine a scene where men and animal work together to fight over possession of a small white ball, continue to imagine these beasts barrage into each other at incredible speeds. This scene was exactly what went on, amazing feats of control and precision coupled with battles of physicality. It was a violent physical sport very similar to hockey, where players bump, push, and lean on one another in compressed indoor arena. (The professional version is played on a larger outdoor field with four players on a team and the physical nature is almost obsolete in this version) And similarly to hockey the way to score goals is incredibly difficult and requires precise striking with polo stick and ball directed towards a small goal. It’s a sport for everyone and involves skills like physicality, elegance, grace, speed, and accuracy.

Overall, the sport was an eye-opening experience for me and the game was incredibly close and a well-contested match. I urge all of you to head up to our equestrian center this weekend for the National Tournament at our home field. Cornell has received the number two seed (deservingly so) and has a great chance to bring the Cornell Men’s Polo National Title back to Ithaca.


  1. I was only vaguely aware that Cornell had a polo team. I think the Daily Sun reported on it, but it is never given as much attention as other sports such as hockey and lax. This is probably because everybody generally considers polo an exclusive sport that only the royal family plays. After reading your review, I definitely plan on heading to the equestrian center and watching a game before I graduate. Polo must be one of the most elegant yet difficult games to play out there. It takes supreme skill to control the ball, let alone the large animal that serves as your mode of transportation. Mastery of the sport depends on the mastery of the horse-- there is nothing leisurely about that training. The violent aspect of polo definitely comes from the chemistry between the player and the horse. It could go wrong at any time.

  2. What is most striking for me is the juxtaposition of grace with violence what you described. While I can only imagine how violent jostling for the ball on horseback can be, I'm in constant awe of the skill, dexterity and balance that goes into coordinating so many different people and animals in pursuit of the goal. The casual observer can only imagine the what is it like to play the game, but nonetheless we can still appreciate the ballerina-esque delicacy and beauty of the movement of the horses and their riders (so I gather from watching videos on youtube).

  3. I think in most sports, there is always some juxtaposition of grace and violence. Even in hockey, football, whatever there is a lot of grace and technical skill involved, that's why athletics end up being so impressive in the end right? However, I never realized that polo was really so violent. I had always imagined it was more of croquet on a horse or something of that sort. It's really fascinating to find that Cornell even has a polo team. Actually, I guess I shouldn't be surprised seeing how we even have a quidditch team... Interesting, I will definitely check them out.


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