The Impressive History of Polo | Rivermead Estate | Rivermead

The History of Polo

By: | September 9th, 2019

Polo’s alluring history captivates audiences across the globe. At Rivermead Estate, we too can’t help but admire the rich intricacies of this esteemed sport. 

Perhaps it’s the majestic steeds, the athleticism – or an appreciation for the art-form that is polo. Cheering crowds, dramatic fashion and the fresh woodland air blanketing Rivermead’s polo grounds. 

Set on 55 acres, Rivermead Estate’s equine property homes a manicured polo field, stables and all the facilities needed to host polo matches right here on the Gold Coast. 

Here we explore how polo came to be known as the ‘Sport of Kings.’

The History of Polo | In the Beginning

Originating in Persia, polo (translating to ‘ball’ in English) first entered the sporting arena as a training game for cavalry units in the 6 th Century BC. Only the King’s most elite troops were invited to compete, with up to 100 players on each team. Over time, the sport made its way to the Middle East and Asia

Come the turn of the 21st century, polo’s prestigious game re-emerged as a respected spectator sport. Today polo is played internationally by the urban elite and their revered Polo Ponies.

How Polo is Played

Players ride Polo Ponies, hitting the ball across the field in an attempt to score the most amount of goals. Teams are made up of four players each and after each goal is scored, the game changes direction. This is largely to compensate for field and wind conditions. Players assume either defensive or offensive positions and must have at least two Polo Ponies to switch between throughout a game. 

Polo matches are divided into 7 minute periods. Such periods are called chukkas and following each, players switch steads due to the demands placed on each Polo Pony during gameplay. Each player’s handicap is between 2 and 10 goals – with each handicap being added to the team’s handicap. 

The essential tools for polo are a specially-designed mallet, ball, knee guards, custom-built saddle and of course, the reliable Polo Pony. 

The History of Polo Spectating

Urban Polo was invented in Australia in 2005 and altered the game. This was primarily a design choice to enhance the crowd’s experience. While a full-sized field is 300 yards by 200 yards wide (or around 10 acres), to bring polo closer to the city, the required playing field length was reduced to roughly 150 yards. This ultimately moved the game closer to its admirers. 

The History of Polo Traditions

With new polo rules came new polo traditions, particularly designed to include spectators during and following the game’s play.

Divot Stomping

At half-time guests are invited to enter the polo field and stamp down torn grass to help keep mares and players safe. It sure is a sight, though crowds revel in this tradition at games across the world.

Sabre a Champagne

Sabrage refers to the opening of a bottle of Champagne with a sword and began in France during the Napoleonic wars. 

As the story goes, widowed Veuve Clicquot took over her late husband’s Champagne company and grew it to be the largest exporter of the bubbled tipple in Russia and France. Clicquot would also gift the polo players with a bottle of Champagne before a game for good luck – Though riding horseback and opening their foiled lids was mighty difficult. And one day a player simply pulled a small sabre knife from his pocket and popped the bottle with a single stroke of the blade.

Today this tradition continues, with trophy presentations and end of match celebrations including a ceremonial sabrage.

The History of Polo at Rivermead

The Gold Coast’s Polo Club originated in 1974 and called Rivermead Estate home. While the club temporarily moved to a new home while Rivermead Estate was being built, they have since returned to us, where we’re committed to reviving polo culture and the Gold Coast’s original home to polo. 

It may also interest you to know that Rivermead Estate’s Polo and Farm Manager, Mark Lillyman has trained Prince William, his Eaton College team in London and played polo nationally alongside Prince Harry. Today Mark will play an integral part in Rivermead’s polo scene. 

Polo at Rivermead Today

Rivermead Estate is excited to announce the introduction of polo camps, training, horse riding and horsemanship education in 2020. Reviving a rich history deeply seated in the polo landscape, Rivermead Estate is your number one choice for equine experiences. 

Want more information about Rivermead Estate’s equine facilities? Contact us today to register your interest or request more information. 


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