Originating in India, the game of polo spread as fast as its enthusiasts could travel, eventually ending up in North America, specifically New York, in the summer of 1876. Here in Aiken, trotting to the polo fields starts at a young age, like professional polo player and Aiken dweller, Tiger Kneece. After talking with Tiger, we learned how he got his start and the basics of the game.
“I began playing polo at the age of 10 years old. I had tried other equine disciplines such as show jumping, fox hunting and pleasure riding, but just never got that interested in any of them until my parents had me try polo. The first time I had the mallet in my had I was addicted.”
If you aren’t familiar with the basics of the game, Tiger easily explained the premise to us:
“The basics of the game are that their are 4 players on each team. The field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide. Each end of the field has a goal which is 24 feet in width. The object of the game is to hit the ball through the goal which represents a score while the opposing team is trying to stop you. Their are plenty of rules, but the main one to remember is: when the ball is hit, a line is created which cannot be crossed by an opposing player. This is mainly for safety reasons since you are on a horse traveling up to 35 mph. If the line is crossed, a foul is awarded and the team can hit a penalty shot. Most games have 6 chukkers in them. One chuckker is 7 1/2 minutes long. In between chukkers, the players have a chance to switch and get a fresh horse. Team at the end of the game with the most goals wins!”
Playing for over 35 years, 25 of those as a professional, Tiger thoroughly enjoys teaching others how to play.
“Teaching is one of my passions because Polo is such a challenging sport. Not only do you need good hand-eye-coordination and a true sense of the game, but you need to know how to ride also. Putting all of these together can be difficult, but it brings me great joy to see others learn how. The best advice I can give someone is to find a reputable and safe instructor or polo school. Polo and horses in general are expensive, so take your time. People usually know very early on if they like it and are going to continue. The most important thing is to make sure you have a safe and reliable horse to start learning the sport, which can make all the difference in the world.”
Whether it’s sporting art throughout the hotel or our guests bringing their horses to eat brunch outside, The Willcox has a heart for the equestrian lifestyle. Swing by The Willcox to celebrate the deeply rooted tradition of Polo after a leisurely game this month and end it with an Old Fashioned at our bar! With our “Learn to Play Polo” package, enjoy a three-night stay and three private polo lessons for one person (includes use of horse) from an experienced polo player – call guest services for more information: 803-648-1898.