By Julie Brown Patton
Galloping teams of 1,000-pound polo ponies and riders competed at an exciting, first-ever “Flat Out Fridays” social match at the newly opened Southern Spring Farms Polo Club in Eureka on June 9. A series of these Friday evening matches are underway through the month, with the last one to be held June 30.
“Our goal was to bring polo to the community in a way that makes it accessible to everyone,” said Justin Baisch, owner of the Southern Spring Farms Polo Club and the Mid America Logistics Polo Team. “The grass has been meticulously tended, and has the perfect stance for our first full season.”
The season opener was between teams Kräftig/Little Creek Ranch from Troy, Mo., and Mid America Logistics, with the 11-8 win going to Little Creek. The other matches include teams and players from various parts of the world.
Baisch said his favorite part of polo is the horses.
“Building a relationship with not one, but a string of horses is wonderful,” he said. “I’m constantly looking to develop my string through improving the ones I have or finding new horses.”
He said he’s been fortunate to locate horses that weren’t already “working for other players.”
The June 9 social match was the second polo event ever attended by Joyce and Jerry Duncan, of Pacific.
“We had fun at the first polo match we went to, and thought we’d check out this one,” said Joyce, who quickly added they got on their cell phones to find polo rules so they could better understand the sport.
She said it was interesting to learn about which goal posts polo teams shoot at, because she first thought it was like soccer in that each team had a particular goal they had to use.
Jerry said it’s surprising how fast polo horses run. Indeed, the average speed of a polo pony is 35-40 mph.
The Duncans’ granddaughter is now taking horse-riding lessons, and Joyce helps care for a friend’s horses, so she said seeing horses in the polo capacity was a nice, new dimension for those who love being around these magnificent creatures.
One female, Jasmine Gallegos, played the opening match. She’s playing polo in college as well.
Polo was first played in Persia more than 7,000 years ago, and reportedly was used to train cavalry soldiers for battle. Polo gradually was adopted by the English, and introduced in the United States in the late 1800s. Polo is played professionally in 16 countries, and formerly was an Olympic sport. Polo basics are:
● Each polo team has four players on a side.
● The game is divided into six periods called “chukkers.”
● Each chukker is 7:30 minutes long, with a warning horn at 7 minutes, and two horn blasts at the end of the chukker.
● Each player has a mallet, which has a bamboo cane and a hard wood head.
● The ball is made of a hard plastic material, about 4 ounces in weight and about 3.5 inches in diameter.
● The object of the game is to hit the ball through the goal posts.
● After each goal, the players switch sides to avoid any environmental advantages, such as wind or sun.
● The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, which is bigger than eight or nine football fields.
● The modern polo game lasts roughly two hours.
Located 2550 Highway FF, Southern Spring Farms Polo Club’s spectator capacity is 2,000.
Gates open at 4:30 p.m. with the social matches starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for those 15 years old or older. Children under 15 are admitted at no charge. Parking is free of charge for general admission tickets. Southern Spring Farms also offers VIP packages, including a tailgate parking pass that includes all attendees in the car with field-side parking for $50, or a VIP Tent package for $100. Tickets are sold on the game day as well.