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All About Polo:
Polo - The Game
The Polo Club
Field, Ponies And Equipment
Rules For Polo - Part 1
Rules For Polo - Part 2
Horsemanship - Part 1
Horsemanship - Part 2

The Polo Club

( Originally Published Late 1920 )

The polo club has to conform to local conditions, and it is impossible to lay down any rule as to general characteristics, as in some places the club is a country club in which polo is an incident, interesting only to a comparatively small portion of its members; in others, the polo feature is the whole thing. I shall, however, outline what I consider the ideal combination. This is a small club, organized principally for the purposes of polo, with a rambling and rustic clubhouse, situated in the country within easy reach of a number of men, owners of large estates in the neighborhood, who have clubbed together for their polo and other sports. There should be just enough members from some neighboring city who are in the habit of coming out and living at the club during parts of the summer months to give a homelike feeling to the club and a club population, which it would not get were it to depend on people having neighboring estates and living when in the country at home. People from the city could thus keep their ponies at the club, which should have large stables. There should also be facilities for such other seasonable sports as the country affords. The Meadow Brook Club in Long Island, the Myopia and the Dedham Country and Polo Clubs of Massachusetts are clubs that answer more or less accurately to this description.

It would be well for the club to have two fields, and I have always fancied the idea of having polo every day. Three days a week could be given to the men with more than three ponies and the desire for fast and furious play, and three days to one and two pony rnen, to encourage beginners and players of srnall means, or men who like exercise and do not care for the strenuous work that comes from the fast play in anticipation of matches, thus encouraging polo from the cradle to the grave. In this way, when the first team was off playing matches, all players would be able, by coming on the odd days, to get polo; also if a man happened to be away on one of his regular polo days he could make up by coming out with the other set of players and thus get his chance to play and not lose a day of exercise and sport.

Every club should have a wooden horse set in the middle of a room, with sides that slope in such a way that a ball thrown in will roll toward the horse and come to a stop within hitting reach of the mallet. These walls slope up on the sides and end in a net which catches the ball and throws it back upon the sloping floor. A man .by sitting on this wooden horse can concentrate his attention upon the stroke, the direction, the swing and speed of hitting, and the part of the mallet head on which the ball strikes, without having to think of a lot of other matters which tend to distract the attention. In the Philippines those teams that used the wooden horse regularly carne out much the best in the tournarnents.

The club should have a comfortable series of rooms in which the members could dress, each with a big roomy wardrobe where he could keep his polo clothes.

An important feature of a successful club is, however, the right sort of steward. Each man's property should be known by the steward, who will take personal interest in seeing that everything is in place. When players arrive to dress for polo each man's outfit should be laid out, his boots properly cleaned and properly treed, spurs neatly cleaned and laid by the boots, white trousers, shirt, belt, underclothes, and whip, gloves, wrist straps, helmet, etc., and a selection of mallets on the rack belonging to him. Those mallets which have twisted or weakened heads or are damaged in any other way should be laid on the floor below or stuck in a separate corner, so that by no chance will lie be misled, in his hurry, to take one of them. I recommend that each polo player have a blanket ulster made with which to cover himself after play and on the way to his bath. At the Dedham Club each player had part of a, large chest of drawers, which are best made with traveling slides at the side, as are the drawers in card-catalogue cases, so that the drawer can be pulled out its full length without dropping down. This enables one to use the full depth of the drawer conveniently.

On the players' return from play the steward should have ready for each one his favorite drink, as they will have a raging thirst; and no drink is more grateful than that which first quenches the thirst that one gets on the polo field. I have found the most satisfactory of all drinks to be a "shandy gaff," made of one part ale and two parts ginger ale. Most of the players that I played with used to take ginger ale, flavored with a whole lemon peel cut spirally from the lemon, a drink which is usually known as a "horse's neck."

I consider it highly inadvisable to take strong drinks to quench the thirst, as one needs a lot of liquid. And if it is mixed with whiskey or other intoxicants, before quenching the natural polo thirst one gets a good deal of alcohol into the system.

There should be tubs for those who like to soak after polo; there should also be a room with a number of showers, so that men need not be kept waiting for their baths. These showers should have both hot and cold water. I strongly advise taking a hot bath after polo. Personally, I like to soak for a few moments in a tub of very hot water until I get the stiffness out and get supple after playing, cooling off then with a cold shower or a plunge in a cold tub or pool.

In arranging for the bath there should be laid beside the chair or bed on which each player's clothes are laid a bath towel, and each man's clothes should be laid out ready for use.

I used to have men trained so that everything prepared for polo was just as a matter of course and without orders. All ponies fit for play were brought to the field, with their respective saddles and bridles. They arrived with the bunch of fifty or sixty ponies composing the strings of all the players, either just before or just after the drag containing the players themselves.

After polo we all sat down and had a polo dinner, which was not the least enjoyable part of the afternoon, the crowd breaking up early or late, as they liked.

After the bath or after dressing for dinner, I think it especially desirable to rest for a few minutes, lying down flat on a bed or couch and staying very quiet for at least fifteen minutes before eating.

I also advise against drinking cocktails between the play and dinner. The system does not need excitement or stimulant; it needs rest. While I doubt if one cocktail does any harm, to take several or more than one I believe to be injurious to polo men who want to be in condition to play matches and have their nerve and eye in the best possible shape for the game.

I think, whatever the club may be, there should be a committee to care for the interests of polo, to be known as the Polo Committee.

This committee would determine such matters as the date of beginning games and opening the season and closing it, and such other matters as they may not have delegated to the captain. While the Polo Committee would make ground rules, fix the hours of play, the terms upon which the field could be used, hours in which it could be practiced upon other than the hours of play, and all matters connected with polo memberships, it should in no way undertake to interfere with the captain in such matters as the selection of the team or the conduct of the play of the team in matches, or of any member in play, except in so far as the general rules of the club are concerned.

Under certain circumstances it may be desirable to have a polo membership to carry with it the privileges of the club during the polo season only, and it should not be perhaps so cost} y as a regular membership with polo privileges. The polo privileges, however, whether to polo or to regular members, should carry with them a charge, as each player should pay something for the upkeep of the field and the expense of maintaining the games. As a rule it is not customary to charge admission to polo games, hence the only source of revenue for maintaining the field comes from the general revenues of the club or from the pockets of the polo players. The expense would vary somewhat with the number of players, which either makes two fields necessary or increases correspondingly the cost of maintaining one. It is doubtful if a polo field can be maintained without a very Substantial call upon the pockets of all the players, except in the instance of a very large country club near some important city where the membership is so large that the proportionate part paid by each member for such a thing as maintaining a polo field is inconsiderable.

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