‘Like hockey on horseback’: an inside look at Alberta’s professional polo
Even born-and-raised Calgarians may be surprised to learn there’s a large, professional polo venue located just outside city limits – and their summer season is just about to start.
Nestled between Okotoks and De Winton, the Calgary Polo Club is over a century old, originally established in 1890. The facility is over 300 acres, making it one of the largest polo facilities in North America.
“It’s completely gorgeous,” polo player Tiffany Burns said. “You can see the Rockies off in the distance.”
The club has nine full-size playing fields, an outdoor arena, school and ranch house.
This year, Burns will be participating in her fourth season with the club, and she’s encouraging those who have never watched a game to give it a try.
“Polo is like hockey on horseback. It’s a fast-paced game, but it’s also a team sport.”
“The horses are just thundering past you, and you can hear the players yelling at each other.”
Games are held in July and August on Sundays at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
All polo matches are free for spectators; dogs are even welcome as long as they’re on a leash.
Or, you’re able to purchase a social membership for $250 per couple or family, which gives you access to exclusive events. New this year, members are also able to reserve priority sideline seating complete with a white VIP tent.
If you aren’t familiar with the rules of polo, Burns says there is an announcer who uses loudspeakers to give the crowd a rundown of the action.
And no, it’s not all white-linen outfits and expensive jewelry.
“I think a lot of people have the impression it’s all Pretty Woman and it’s very formal, but I think it’s the most down-to-earth horse sport I’ve seen, aside from maybe rodeo,” Burns joked. “Usually people are out there in their jeans and it’s casual and fun.”
“We have all kinds of people who play polo at the club, from those who have never been on a horse before to former hunter-jumper competitors,” Burns added.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that we have professionals who come from all over the world. They live in Calgary over the summer to play professionally on teams at the Calgary Polo Club.”
“You’ve got players from Argentina and South Africa, all over the United States.”
Despite what you may have seen in movies or on TV, polo isn’t just for the boys. Burns says a lot of women play at the club.
“It’s equal [men and women] I’d say.”
“The very cool thing about polo is there’s no age limit or gender bias when it comes to making a team. If you’re good enough, you’re on the team.”
For more information, you can visit CalgaryPoloClub.com.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.