Polo is often referred to as “the sport of kings” and its mention conjures up images of society’s elite galloping across a large green field on horseback.
But polo isn’t just for the rich and powerful. Now, it’s coming to Oxford Township, giving everyone a chance to enjoy it.
Rattlewood Farms, located at 1935 Ray Rd., will host a charity polo match on Saturday, Aug. 26. The field opens at 5:30 p.m. and the match starts at 6 p.m. Please use the Delano Rd. entrance.
Three members of the Michigan Intercollegiate Polo Club – Caleb Pilukas, Cam Harter and Brooke Baker – will take on three members of the Detroit Polo Club.
“We’re treating it as an exhibition match,” said Michigan Polo Coach Emmalyn Wheaton.
In polo, two teams of players ride around a field on horseback, using mallets with long flexible handles to drive a ball through goalposts.
The Aug. 26 match will consist of four chukkers (playing periods), each lasting 7½ minutes, with a halftime after the first two.
“A match typically lasts about an hour (to an) hour-and-a-half,” Wheaton said.
The polo match is being organized by Will Davis, owner of Mid Michigan Dressage Schooling Shows and the Will Davis Training Center, both of which are based at Rattlewood Farms.
“(Polo is) not something you see every day,” Davis said. “It’s very exhilarating to watch when you have a number of horses galloping across an open field and mallets are swinging.”
“Polo is a really unique experience,” Wheaton said. “With only a little over 200 polo clubs nationwide, this is a really great opportunity to experience (the sport) and get a feel for some of the different levels of polo that are offered throughout the U.S. We have high school polo, collegiate polo and the club level polo that we play here in Detroit.”
General admission is $12 per person, which includes parking and shuttle service. Spectators are welcome to bring chairs, blankets and coolers.
VIP tickets are available for $100 each. VIP spectators will have access to a special tent located at mid-field where they will be able to enjoy beer, wine and food provided by Cranberries Cafe of Goodrich.
Davis said “a large part” of polo is the “social aspect.”
“People come out and mingle,” he said. “You get a very diverse cross-section of the community there. It’s not just the social elites . . . You get a good mix of people at an event like this . . . (Polo) can be enjoyed by anybody at any economic level.”
Locally, tickets are available at Covered Wagon Saddlery, located at 20 S. Washington St. in downtown Oxford.
Proceeds will benefit the Michigan Intercollegiate Polo Club, a nonprofit University of Michigan student-run organization that was founded in 2003 and is open to all students. The club currently has 24 male and female members and a stable that includes 13 horses.
The U-M team receives no funding from the university. The program relies entirely on fund-raisers, member dues, donations and sponsorships.
“It’s all self-funded,” Wheaton said. “The kids have to pay for everything . . . All their tack, all their mallets, all their gear, everything they use is (obtained) through donation.”
It can cost up to $27,000 to fund the program on an annual basis, according to Wheaton.
Student members each pay $495 in dues per semester.
“We actually have one of the most inexpensive dues (rates) in intercollegiate polo,” said Wheaton, who’s coached the team for three years. “It is because the kids do such a great job fund-raising. They keep their dues affordable, so that (the club’s) accessible to students who want to learn to play polo. That’s why their fund-raising is so critical.”
Wheaton said attending the Aug. 26 match is a way “to help support a great group of kids, doing what they love.”
In addition to raising money, Wheaton hopes this charity match will encourage folks to “check out something that they’ve never seen before” and learn more about the sport.
“We want to make polo more accessible to people,” she said. “It’s one of the only true team sports within the equestrian community. It’s a really different, exciting thing to watch.”
Davis hopes this event will help expose more people to this area’s horse country.
“A lot of people move to Oxford because there’s a rural feel to it, but they don’t really grasp the history of the area,” he said. “So, we’re trying to open up our facility and say, ‘Hey, this is what makes this area unique. This is what makes living here so special.’ You have all these big horse farms and you have all these property owners that, in their own way, are trying to conserve large tracts of land for everybody’s enjoyment.”