Polo is often referred to as ‘the game of kings’, because of its popularity amongst kings, sultans and warriors. Certainly, it was popular with royalty even in ancient times.
Polo probably originated 2,500 years in ancient Persia, where it was part of royal education for the Sasanian ruling class. Both men and women played the game, and the 12th century Iranian poet Nezâmi wrote how the love story between the Sasanian Emperor Khosrow II Parviz and his beautiful Shirin bloomed because of her ability on the polo field. Polo reached Constantinople under the Byzantines and it was a royal pastime amongst the Chinese for centuries too.
The modern game first appeared in Manipur, India, where it was called ‘sagol kangjei’, or ‘pulu’, which referred to the wooden ball used during games. The sport caught the attention of British colonists based in India, and they spread it to the rest of the world.
Here are ten of the finest polo stables around the world today.
Jaipur Riding and Polo Club
The Jaipur Riding and Polo Club is one of the most distinguished places in the world to watch polo (and it is the only club in the world that you can choose to watch elephant, camel or horseback matches). On the peripheries of Jaipur, this club was founded by Colonel K S Garcha, one of India’s best polo players, and is a historical jewel of the area.
Desert Palm Polo
Founded by Ali Albwardy in 1994, Desert Palm Polo sits on 160 (surprisingly) green acres of landscaped land, and is just a 20 minute drive from the centre of Dubai. The club is home to more than 300 horses, and boasts state-of-the-art facilities that include high-quality polo fields and training grounds, an in-house veterinary studio and its own tack shop. After riding, players can relax in the club spa, enjoy a meal at the restaurant and stay at the onsite luxury hotel.
Figueras Polo Stables
Professional polo player Nacho Figueras commissioned the Figueras stable in Argentina, which was built to contain 44 boxes, and extend over a vast 3850 square meter area. Located 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires, this Polo farm is an architectural work of art. The front of the building overlooks the green polo fields (270 by 150 meters) while the rear section overlooks a peaceful pool filled with river stones and the horses stables and grooming area.
Guards Polo Club
Founded in 1955 by HRH Prince Philip, the Guards Polo club of England is now the largest in Europe in terms of both membership and size of facilities. The Club hosts over 500 Polo matches between April and September and is set within the magnificent natural surroundings of Great Windsor Park.
Chantilly Polo Club
Patrick Guerrand-Hermès established what is now the largest polo club in France. Chantilly Polo Club is located amidst the magical landscape of the Château de Chantilly estate, around 60km from the centre of Paris. The Club has extensive facilities for horses and spectators, including 200 permanent boxes and 30 turnout paddocks which can accommodate up to 200 horses. The carefully maintained parklands are perfect for picnics, and within the grounds of the Ferme d’Apremont, is an Argentinian style clubhouse and an orangery for drinks, meals and special events.
Once owned by Kerry Packer, the media mogul and polo enthusiast (who is now buried near the polo fields), the Ellerston estate in NSW, Australia extends over a massive 30,000 hectares. The property is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest polo grounds and producers of top-quality polo ponies.
The Thai Polo and Equestrian Club
The Thai Polo and Equestrian Club is the biggest polo and equestrian operation in Asia. Boasting three full-sized, international-standard polo playing fields, two practice fields, and stabling for over 250 horses, the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club was the brainchild of polo enthusiasts Harald Link (President of the South-east Asian Equestrian Federation) and Nunthinee Tanner (the first female polo player in Thailand).
The Roma Polo Club
The Roma Polo Club was founded in 1930 and is the oldest polo club in Italy. Not far from the Colosseum and Vatican, this historical club keeps a distinctly English vibe, and hosts some of the most important tournaments in Italy.
Brazilian Polo Club
Founded in 1975 by Giorgio Morini, the Brazilian Polo Club has ten of its own fields and 20 private courts. It hosts Brazils’ most important annual polo tournaments and sees more than 200 players and 3,000 horses each year.
Greenwich Polo Club
The prestigious Greenwich Polo club was set up in 1981, and is one of only three polo venues in the United States that offers high-goal polo (20 goals or above). Noted families, artists, and well-known personalities are all part of the international atmosphere that makes the Greenwich Polo Club so unique.