December 18, 2014
Fusing sporting prowess, sophistication, horsemanship, tradition and glitz, the Barbados polo scene is nothing if not glamorous. Under cloudless skies, each fiercely fought match is a battle of pride and honour that sees teams pit their wits against each other in a thrilling head-to-head of competitive synergy. Skilful horsemen move their mounts with the utmost precision and can pinpoint the stroke of a bamboo polo mallet at the blink of an eye. Sending a small plastic ball through the goal posts requires nerves of steel and a strategic brain – it’s little wonder polo is compared to a game of chess.
With the stamina of a long-distance runner, the strength and accuracy of a javelin thrower, and the talents of a skilled horseman, top-class polo players are few and far between. On the boundaries of the field in St James, a hushed audience of spectators are spellbound by the charge. To the pop of Champagne corks, and the clink of glasses, this glamorous set enjoy the high stakes and high drama of each 7-minute chukka; applauding as each bell clangs. High-speed fluidity is required to uphold the momentum and pace – players change their pony at the end of each chukker, swinging from saddle to saddle, often without touching the turf. A switch of directions, end-to-end, after each goal keeps eyes trained to the flurry of hooves until the half-time call for “volunteers” to stomp divots of churned-up grass back into their rightful places.
Polo was introduced to the Caribbean during the colonial period, arriving in Barbados in 1884. Though at first it was just played by the military crowd, by the early 1920s the Barbadian planters had taken it to their hearts. At this time, polo was played at The Garrison Savannah – the former British Army base – but in 1965 the Barbados Polo Club moved to its current location, the lush, velvety grounds at Holders. The sport draws players and spectators from all over the world to Holders and the island’s two other public polo clubs – Apes Hill Polo Club, and Lion Castle Polo Estate. A calendar of more than a dozen trophy games take place each season (Jan – end of May) and provides an enthralling showcase of the most talented athletes and highest rated players in Barbados polo. Exciting international fixtures include games against top-rated teams from the USA, Jamaica, Canada, the UK, Italy and Argentina, together with on-pitch archenemy, Venezuela.
At the end of the match, it’s time to join the aprs-polo party in a huge billowing marquee that spills out into bloom-filled gardens. This the place to see and be seen with the finest Champagne, the most exquisite names in luxury goods – think Cartier, Lauren Perrier and Aston Martin – and ultra-sophisticated DJ sets from the biggest names in ambient grooves. Indeed, the glamour of the Barbados polo scene can be found both on and off the field.
Header Image © Barbados Tourist Authority
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Have you been to a polo match in Barbados? What did you make of the glamorous world of Barbados polo? Let us know in the comments section below.