When we first drove into Indio we noticed our Airbnb was close to polo fields. We didn’t want to pass up a chance to see the game of polo in action. Fortunately for us, it is played in the Coachella Valley during the cooler months of January through March. After a few minutes researching one Sunday morning we decided we would attend a game at the nearby Eldorado Polo Club. For those who are familiar with the Coachella Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, the Eldorado is where these events are held each April.
Here are a few basics regarding the play of polo:
The field is massive (300 yards long by 160 yards wide). That’s the size of nine football fields!
Polo consists of 7-1/2 minutes of play called chukkers. There are 4 minutes between each chukker with most games consisting of 6 chukkers.
There are 2 teams with each team consisting of 4 players on horseback working the ball (about the size of a baseball) down the field to score a goal between goal posts approximately 8 yards apart. I should note here that the games we attended had teams with a mix of men and women.
Each player needs 4-8 horses depending on the tournament level and number of chukkers. One of the games played while we were in attendance was 7 chukkers. So, there were 60+ horses available to change out which was very important considering the temperatures were above normal and the horses work hard during their time in the game.
Players must keep their left hand on the reins and their right on the mallet. But the mallet can be used on the right or the left of the horse.
Shoulder to shoulder contact is allowed with the other players’ horse.
In other words, there’s what looks like a very small ball in comparison to the size of the horses and their riders on a massive playing field. These 8 horses with 8 riders swinging long mallets, along with 2 mounted umpires enforcing the game, move very fast up and down the field. It sounds like a stampede as the players and their mounts maneuver from one end to the other. It was incredibly exciting.
At halftime, the attendees take to the field (free champagne in hand) for the divot stomp in order to repair the field for better travel of the ball and the horses during the second half. Very civilized and fun – think of the movie Pretty Woman!
This was not an expensive event to attend. At Eldorado every Saturday and Sunday you pay $10 to park. If you are tailgating that is all you pay! We paid an additional $10 each to sit out of the sun under the huge canopy where there was a bar and restaurant. There looked like there was seating for about 400 people at white linen covered tables of 10. We called only 90 minutes prior to the start of the first game and made reservations to insure we would be under cover on such a warm day. Plus, while there were walkups, reservations will get you a better seat. We watched two games and were there about five hours. There were several first-time attendees and it was fun figuring out what was happening on the field. We sat with people from Canada who were also first-timers and have been offered a place to stay when visiting Vancouver Island. It was a lovely afternoon. If we are ever visiting the Coachella Valley during the winter again, we would definitely head to the polo fields.
Thanks for joining us on our journey.