Second annual polo match wraps up the Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian
By Kelsey Lauer 7/27/09
Hockey is a familiar sport, particularly in Northern Michigan; but what
about hockey on horseback?
(Polo) is very similar to hockey, says Horse Shows by the Bay co-founder
Alex Rheinheimer. The game principles are the same, in the respect that
opponents are whacking a ball with a stick. Horses and riders check one
another. Its very exciting; its fast-paced; its an aggressive sport.
A little of that polo match excitement will be returning to the Traverse
City area, as the four-week Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival
offers its second annual Polo by the Bay Exhibition and Match in
Williamsburg on Sunday, Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. The event is open to the public.
We were approached by the University of Michigan polo club in the spring
(of 08) and we thought that since we feature all things equestrian it
would be a great addition to our festival, Rheinheimer says. Since we
had such a great turnout, we thought it would be great to do it again.
POLO IN A NUTSHELL
One of the worlds oldest team sports, polo originated as a cavalry
training game. The object of the game is to use a wooden mallet to hit a
plastic or wooden ball into the opposing teams goal.
Games are divided into periods of seven minutes, known as chukkers, and
riders usually switch mounts after every chukker.
Traditionally, polo is played outdoors on a large grassy surface measuring
160 by 300 yardsthe length of three football fields, according to the
United States Polo Association.
Four players form each team, and the ball measures three to three and a
half inches in diameter. A game lasts for six chukkers.
Arena polowhich is the format of the Polo by the Bay Exhibitiontakes
place on a regulation size 300 by 150 foot dirt surface, usually enclosed
by walls of at least four feet in height, according to the United States
Polo Association. It may be played indoors or outdoors, something that
allows for play at any time of the year.
Teams consist of three members; the game lasts for only four chukkers,
requiring riders to bring a smaller number of mounts. The ball is similar
to a mini soccer ball, softer than the hard plastic ball used in outdoor
Co-ed teams of three riders each will compete, wearing jerseys with the
logos and colors of the two sponsors, Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel and Team
Horse Shows by the Bay has really helped our area by bringing new people
to the area and we like to support events that help our community like
that, says Tonya Wildfong of Team Elmers. Its something new. We have
so many wonderful things to enjoy in our area, but you dont necessarily
get to see a polo match.
Because achieving even basic proficiency in playing polo can take as long
as three or four years, specially-trained horses and riders from the
Meadowview Farm Polo Club in Grand Rapids will travel up for the event.
Rheinheimer, who has been attending polo events since she was a child,
says that theres an especially fun atmosphere at a polo match.
Theres that Pretty Woman experience that goes along with (polo), where
you want to dress up, Rheinheimer says. You can really get into the
social setting that polo provides.
As a child, I used to attend the tournaments that took place at the Polo
Club in Potomac, Maryland. I grew up as a spectator and have always
In recognition of the traditional polo match splendor, Horse Shows by the
Bay puts on a hat contest along with the polo match. Throughout the match,
judges will stroll through the crowd and evaluate spectators hats.
Categories include most over the top, best team spirit for both teams
and silliest hats as a childrens category. A $400
cash prize will be split among the winners of each category.
Tickets are $10 for general all-day admission and $25 for a reserved seat
in the Special Events tent. A special VIP ticket priced at $75 includes a
pre-match luncheon benefiting the Munson Hospital Foundation. To purchase
tickets and for more info, visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com or call