One hundred and twenty nine years ago the British occupied South Africa and in their cavalry they had, in relation, as many horses as there are cars today.
Horses played a key role and gave a tactical advantage during this era, but what was meant for work, soon turned to play.
A polo horse is considered the ultimate horse because of its speed, agility and ability to manoeuvre according to Clive Pebble, executive director of polo South Africa. The bond and connection between rider and horse makes what polo is today, a spectacular and exhilarating sport not only to play, but especially to watch, even if you are not too sure what is going on.
The South African Polo Association was founded in 1905 and has promoted this traditional and fine art through the years. Polo is considered by many as an elitist sport and only open to those who can afford it.
It just so happened that over the years the polo fields have been shared by farmers because they already had horses used primarily for ploughing and work around the farms. To compete came hardly at a cost to the farmers, which made it the perfect environment to level the playing fields between classes.
If I had to compare polo to another sport based on set up and running costs, the sport that best compares to polo, is professional golf. Golf is an expensive sport but all relative to what you want out of the sport.
For a social golfer like myself, my entry-set of clubs does the job quite nicely. A membership to play golf course at discounted fees helps me to keep within my budget as golf is just one of several sports I play.
Polo is no different. The start-up will be hefty with the purchasing of experienced polo horses and don’t forget factoring in the cost of feeding, veterinarian, transporting, stabling and club fees.
As innovative as the Playmoregolf initiative has been in promoting and subsidising beginner golfers, polo clubs like Inanda have been equally successful whereby they carry the costs associated with polo and you can – on a monthly rental basis – learn and enjoy the sport while you progress through the ranks.
This type of set-up is needed much more across South Africa along with key corporate sponsors to grow polo, Peddle says. An anual event that helps polo immensely is the BMW International Polo series, where this year South African will battle it out against Chile.
The first-leg of the tournament saw South Africa tie with Chile last week at Shongweni in Durban which means the finale happening tomorrow at Waterfall Park in Sunninghill is set for some spectacular polo. Chile have not beaten South Africa in the past five series since 1978.
I asked Guy Kilfoil, GM of public affairs, to why BMW have continued to support this event and Polo South Africa for the past 24 years and he replied that the polo brand represents dynamism, innovation and beautiful aesthetics.
“The sport certainly mirrors our brand,” Kilfoil said.
“It is this type of value we give our sponsors in building long-term relationships. It is a win in knowing the sport, and a win for our sponsors.”
If you are not sure what to do tomorrow, why don’t you take the family out for an unforgettable experience and support and watch South Africa beat the Chileans.
You can buy tickets online at sapolo.org.za or at the gate.
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