WHITESTOWN, Ind. (WISH) — The genteel, sophisticated sport of polo was introduced to the United States in 1876, but it’s still very misunderstood. It’s not a contest reserved for the royal family or Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman.” Watch a match, and you’re hooked.
“We have new people interested every day as we get crowds out here,” said club member Austin Chandler, whose family owns the club and the farm it’s on. “They say, ‘We don’t even know this existed, didn’t even know this was out here;’ They come, they’re like, ‘I want to play this thing, how do I do this?'”
Learn to ride and the rest will come. Missy Roetter, one of 19 club members at the Hickory Hall Club in Whitestown, was basically born on a horse, so the game eventually came to her.
“I think for me, I’ve been riding for a long time,” Roetter said. “So this helped me getting over the fear of going fast, so I just had to figure out how to hit the ball at a gallop, so for me it was easier for me to take it on quickly than some people who take a longer time. Usually, they suggest taking riding lessons elsewhere and then coming here and then taking the polo lessons.”
“You have to be able to adapt and multi-task at all times,” added Chandler. “Eighty-five percent of this game is horsemanship, being able to ride a horse. The rest of it, that’s just hitting the ball at the end of the day. But if you can understand how to ride and understand function with the horse underneath you, the rest of it will tie in with you real easily.”
Chandler and his family started the club on their farm more than 20 years ago, and it continues to grow with nearly 20 members. They keep their 10-acre field in pristine shape, and get ready for summer where they host a charity event every weekend through September open to the public. It’s a physical and skilled game that brings out the passion.
“You’re trying to hit the ball and trying to ride your horse at the same time,” said Bill Thompson. “But you’re at one with the horse usually, because that’s the type of relationship you get with these horses, it’s really special.”
Growing this historic sport that can be traced back more than 3,000 years is the goal of the Chandlers and the club.