Going back centuries, the story of how polo reached the western world starts with England.
England is often credited with igniting the explosion of polo across the globe. After British tea-planters witnessed the original polo matches in Manipur, India for cavalry training, the sport traveled with British naval officers to the western world.
After Britain’s first match in 1869, the sport quickly became popularized. In 1874, the first formal writing of English polo rules was set.
As Polo spread rapidly in England, matches at Richmond Park and Hurlingham attracting more than 10,000 spectators by 1875.Once introduced by the military, the sport of polo remained popular with the cavalry. The sport also spread to universities and was popular with the nobility and royalty. This elevated polo from its humble beginnings to the “sport of kings”.
By 1875, the Hurlingham Polo Committee was formed to manage the rules and the game. In 1925, they were renamed the Hurlingham Polo Association, which is the current governing body for polo in the UK.
The first international competition took place in 1886 when the United States challenged the English, then the undisputed world leaders in polo, for the Westchester Cup. The Westchester Cup has been played 19 times throughout its 137-year-old history, only seven of which have taken place since World War II.
UK Polo Today
The UK is home to some of the most famed and historic polo fields. Many of which have connections back to the Royal family and the beginnings of polo. Some historic clubs include the Cirencester Park Polo Club, Guards Polo Club, Cowdray Park and Royal County of Berkshire amongst others.
The main polo season in the UK is from May to September. Many prestigious tournaments are held including the Queen’s Cup, the Open Championship of England (Gold Cup), The Prince of Wales Trophy and The Warwickshire Cup. Cowdray Park is known as the “Home of British Polo” and hosts over 400 matches annually.
English Equine Technology
The UK is also home to many equestrian innovations. Based in Tarporley in Cheshire, Racewood Equestrian Simulators is a family run business with a very unique product, horse riding simulators. Racewood is able to provide a realistic simulation of horseback riding. This simulation is then tailored to a variety of riding disciplines, including polo.
By providing a folding floor with polo balls attached, a full cage, and the most advanced technology to get instant performance feedback, any practicing polo player can use this simulated environment to perfect their game. With companies like Racewood pioneering new technology, the UK will continue to raise the bar for competition in the world of polo and beyond.
Want to learn more about polo in Europe? Watch our upcoming Global Polo show presented by U.S. Polo Assn. that takes you behind the scenes of the royal family, top athletes and luxurious destinations coming in December!