A-Z Challenge – Polocrosse

Polocrosse is sometimes, accurately but a little unfairly, called poor man’s polo.  The field is quarter the size of a polo field, so you can play with only one horse – in fact at tournaments you are only allowed one horse – and instead of a hard and potentially lethal ball being hammered along at terrifying speeds, it is played with a soft spongy ball which is flicked from stick to stick.  The sticks themselves are netted, slightly like lacrosse sticks, hence the name.

There are only three players to a section (two sections to a team), and the game is played in 8 minute chukkas as it is in polo.  The main difference is that the 4 polo players making up a team change horses every chukka, whereas polocrosse sections  play alternate chukkas, so can  rest between.  It isn’t as fast as polo, simply because there isn’t as much ground to cover, but we insist that it is far more skilled.

It is also the most fun you can have on a horse, and I’ve been riding since I could first close my chubby fists around a hank of mane.  Gymkhana, pony club, show-jumping, dressage, cross country, drag hunting, been there, loved that, but nothing matches the champagne high of a fast game of polocrosse when the ball smacks into your net, your horse swivels smoothly and gallops towards the far goal, the crowd is shrieking hysterically and coming up at a hard gallop is your scorer, calling for the ball …

Well of course there are the times youpolocrosse cartoon 002 dropped the catch, or fumbled the pass, or your knees have been crushed to a throbbing paste by constant impact after the third game of the tournament.  The dust is blinding, or it is raining, or freezing, the other team is just so much better that you never get to touch the ball – that’s all forgotten in the lure of the next tournament.

I was lucky to learn the game on a horse that took to it like a duck to water.  He wasn’t very fast, but he was fearless and threw his whole heart into the game, watching the ball with an eagle eye, throwing himself so enthusiastically into the pushes, shoulder to shoulder, that if the other horse had stepped away he would have fallen over.  More than once he braked in the galloping melee and turned back in the clouds of dust, the only one to notice the ball had fallen to the ground.  He’d drop his shoulder as I leaned in for the pickup and if I missed, his ears would snap back against his head in irritation at my absolute uselessness.  Humbly apologizing to your horse as well as your team is very depressing, I learned to pick the ball up. We started with a minus 2 handicap and he got me to a plus 2 before he retired (extremely reluctantly) at the age of 20. The new horse pushed my handicap higher and we went on to represent  Gauteng  three times at the National Championships but when I remember polocrosse now, or look at the trophies forever prominent on my shelves, it is those early days I remember, and the fun.   Such fun.

(The drawing is a cheeky adaptation of a Nicholas Courtney polo cartoon) (apologies to NC)

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9 thoughts on “A-Z Challenge – Polocrosse

  1. O what fun! I can only imagine! I’ve been dumped by a horse more often than I care to remember, and the last time I took my courage in hand, was the last time.
    Polocrosse sounds perfectly civilised and of course way more skilled than ornery polo.
    Lovely post Elizabeth – it had me chukkaling.
    Susan Scott’s Soul Stuff

  2. Hi Elizabeth,
    I tried playing polocrosse on my very intelligent and headstrong Arabian mare; it did not go quite so well for us as for you as she seemed to think the original rules for the game were pants and invented a new version. I switched to long-distance cross country racing with her; I’m not sure “fun” is the right description but excitement verging on terror can be quite an addictive high too!

    • Love it, Lynne – certainly not enjoyed by all, my husband’s horse wasn’t having any part of it, the second time he got bumped he looked down his nose at the rest of us, then left the field at a dignified but unstoppable trot and thereafter only deigned to umpire. Your Arab sounds fab, excitement verging on terror is exactly right 🙂

    • Riding is described as the art of keeping the horse between yourself and the ground 🙂 and I’m finding the challenge overwhelming, looking forward to quieter months when I can get round to reading every blog from every person I’m now following. It has at least introduced me to some very good blogs!

      • I know – I’ve started to use the WordPress reader thing a lot more now, but struggling to find the time to get around all the great blogs I follow. Especially when I should be working and writing and everything else that I need to fit in! Anyway, moan over!

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