One view is that Polo originated in Iran over 2,000 years ago and developed as a sport to train cavalry in good horsemanship.
By the Middle Ages, the game had spread as far afield as Japan and China.
The 1991 edition of the Guinness Book of Records on the other hand traces the origins of Polo even farther back, to Manipur, in circa 3100 BC, where the sport was known as Sagol Kangjei.
Known in the East as the Game of Kings and the King of Games, this verse is inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Skardu,Pakistan, just north of Kashmir.
British tea planters in India first witnessed the game in the early 1800’s but it was not until the 1850’s that the British Cavalry drew up the earliest rules. By the 1870’s the game was well established in England.
James Gordon Bennett, a noted American publisher and adventurer, was captivated by the sport and brought it to New York in 1876 where it caught on immediately.
The sports Golden Age is seen by many as the 1930’s. It was an Olympic sport and crowds in excess of 30,000 regularly attended international matches.
Nowadays, Polo is active in 77 countries, and although its status as an Olympic game ended in 1939, the International Olympic Committee recognised it as a bona fide sport in 1998 with its own international governing body, the Federation of International Polo.
It is still one of the few sports where keen amateurs can play alongside seasoned professionals.
Professionally, a few countries dominate the game, notably Argentina, England, Pakistan, India, Australia and the United States.
Among this field, Argentina is the team to beat. Argentina has been the uninterrupted world champions since 1949 and is today the source of most of the world’s 10 goal (i.e., top-rated) players.
However, explosive growth in players and the availability of good horses is honing the competitive abilities of challengers from many other countries, including the United States where there are more than 225 USPA member clubs with over 3,000 players.
The sports popularity into the wider masses is continually hampered by its image as an aloof and expensive sport.
While it is true that to play the sport competitively requires money, enjoying the sport as a spectator is something that is open to everyone. Most Polo Clubs and their players welcome wider members of the public to participate in the enjoyment provided by an afternoons match.
So Toffsworld’s advice is to check out what your local Polo club has to offer – you might be surprised by the warm welcome you receive.
Note however, that in most countries, outdoor polo is only played during the Summer months.