Oct 312004
 
Authors: Scott Bondy

Peasants’ heads, recently removed, rolled across barren

campgrounds. Wooden mallets jolted the heads across the field.

Known as the Game of Kings, polo was first introduced over 2,000

years ago by the Persians. The sport, a comparable form of hockey

on horses, has also been used to train British cavalry.

Today, polo is seen as a rich man’s game, played by the

privileged and proper.

“It does cost a lot of money to compete in polo, but it all

depends on the time and effort you are willing to put in,” said Ana

Miaskiewicz, a CSU two-year polo player. “Playing at CSU is a great

opportunity because you don’t have to buy a horse and practically

anyone can play.”

Many things have changed since the introduction of polo. The

sport is now played with a fist-sized ball made of plastic or wood

and with mallets ranging from 48 to 54 inches, depending on the

size of the horse. Played in four periods, known as chukkers, that

last seven-and-a-half minutes, the game is intense and

technical.

“Traveling at high speeds trying to hit a ball that size is very

tough,” said Dan Lafferman, a sophomore with seven years

experience. “Hand-eye coordination is big and a background in

riding helps.”

Polo was officially brought to CSU in 1977 and since then the

sport has advanced as the Rams boast one of the top club teams in

the nation. The men have won three national championships and the

women are contenders every year as well. Both teams are currently

ranked No. 2 in the nation.

There are two types of polo: arena and outdoor. The CSU teams

partake in outdoor polo, which is played with three players per

team with one alternate. The start of play begins as both teams

line up along side each other. The forwards, midfielders and

defense from both teams are paired and the referee rolls out the

ball. The midfielders then fight to gain possession and score goals

by making the ball cross the goal line.

A polo goal is 20 feet high and 10 feet wide. The ball can

travel anywhere in that area to be considered a goal. Shots taken

from behind half field are worth two points while all others yield

one point.

For the CSU polo teams, the highlight of this fall season came

at the Pumpkin Festival, which was played in Santa Fe, N.M., on

Oct. 16 to 17 and hosted various polo teams from around the

country. The CSU men’s and women’s teams went to participate in

front of crowds as big as 3,000 people. Both teams went undefeated

in their first matches of the year. The men are 2-0 on the year,

and the women are 4-0.

Pepsi, Bill, Torah and Ophelia are key members of the CSU men’s

polo team. These horses do all of the running while the players

ride. Polo is one of the few sports that rely on animals and a

serious amount of trust is needed in order to be successful.

“There is a saying in polo that it is 80 percent the horse and

20 percent the rider,” said Miaskiewicz. “But it’s team work.”

Many players learn to play polo at a young age and as the sport

continues to grow, it can often be seen at the high school

level.

“I’ve been playing since I was seven,” said the men’s team

president John Graham. “My dad got me into it. He played in college

and won a national championship with the University of

Connecticut.”

Others, like Lafferman, played in high school and actually

traded in lacrosse sticks and football pads for a horse and

mallet.

“(Polo) is just a really awesome sport,” Lafferman said. “When

some of my friends found out I wanted to play, they were surprised.

But then they came out and saw it. They really thought the sport

was cool.”

Next up, the polo teams face New Mexico State at home with the

women saddling up at noon on Saturday and the men taking the arena

on Sunday at 11 a.m. All games are played at the CSU Equine Center

north of the Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on Overland

Road.

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