If you’ve never heard the clippity clop of horses galloping up a field while men with mallets whack a plastic ball into a goal, then you, my friend, have not yet lived. Family House, a non-profit organization providing housing to families in need during medical emergencies, rung in September with their 34th-annual polo extravaganza. The organization, which was founded in 1983, and given refuge to 225,000 families traveling to the city, welcomed a well-dressed, hat-donning crowd to Hartwood Acres, a massive 629-acre public park in Allegheny county.
Humbly referred to as “The Sport of Kings”, polo is team sport played on horseback. Each team consists of four players, and the game is played as “team a” jostles for position as they attempt to hit a white plastic ball into “team b’s” goal, and vice versa. The intricacies are obvious from the first chukker (play period) in the 2-hour match, which slightly reminded me of the battle of Thermopylae, or an episode of The Tudors, take your pick.
Let me be the first to say that Polo is not a sport for the faint of heart, or the uncoordinated. With horses running at upwards of 35 mph in a full-out sprint on a 300 by 160 yard grass field, (the largest playing field of any sport in the world) timing is of the essence. The sport is visceral, as horses bump into one another (on purpose), all the while, players are wielding a spear like scepter in a turnabout stance, up and down, and dare I say, all around. It’s a phenomenon of horsemanship, adding in the highly specialized and intelligent horses, it’s also a masterful display of the man/animal connection.
Vintage cars were provided by Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, adding to the monocle-inducing day of light clapping, which also included kid-friendly activities, a silent auction, and a sip and shop tent courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University.
Overall, Family House Polo is a smashing event for a great cause, and if you’ve ever had the desire to call people “old sport” in a casual setting, this is the perfect place to do it. Although, you’ll have to wait until next year, old sport.
Visit Family House online for more information. Photos by Julie Kahlbaugh