Origins of Polo
It is believed that polo is more than 2,000 years old. Although we don’t know exactly how the game began, it was originally used for training cavalry and was probably first played by nomadic warriors. Popular in antiquity from Constantinople to Persia, China and Japan, polo’s first recorded match was between the Turks and the Persions in 600 B.C. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century, however, that a British captain created the first written rules for the game. The oldest active club today, the Calcutta Polo Club, was founded in India in 1863. British military and explorers introduced the game to the West, and it became a staple. By the 1870s, the sport was well established in England and had found its way to the U.S. The United States Polo Association was founded in 1890 to coordinate games, standardize rules and establish handicaps. The 1930s were a golden age for polo, played by notable stars such as Walt Disney and Will Rogers. It was an Olympic sport in those days, and Disney made a Mickey Mouse cartoon about it. Sadly, WWII meant tightening belts and the sport fell by the wayside. By the 1960s, though, it was gaining back its feet and the following decade brought huge growth and change, as corporate sponsorships became more common. By the ‘80s, global professional players had replaced the talented amateurs from polo-playing families and stakes were high. Yet no longer was polo a pastime only for wealthy aristocrats and celebrities. Membership increased, as did the percentage of women playing.