Polo Tics / Chris Ashton
Correspondent for US Polo Players Edition.
(…) By the 1870s British cavalry regiments were drafting the rules of modern polo. (The marquess) Curson (of Kedleston, Viceroy of India 1859-1925) feared the hill-tribe version would eventually be “anglicized out of all recognition”. Happily, it has not. Leh, capital of Ladakh, at the northern peak of Kashmir, north of the Great Himalayan range, hosts the Ladakh International Polo Festival, part of a larger annual arts festival in the first week of September. Could he but see it, Lord Curson would be astonished at the durability of the hill-tribe version. Nowadays six-a-side teams play 12 or 13-hand Zanskari ponies (otherwise all-purpose beasts of burden on peasant smallholdings). Each pony plays the entire game – two 20-minute halves with a ten-minute halftime break. And though! Not a single mount at the game’s end looked done for.
(…) Kazak players, mounted on small mountain ponies, lean down to seize the carcass of a freshly slain goat, gutted and headless. The player who seizes it tucks it under his leg as he gallops away. Opposing players try to wrest it from him. Team-mates, as in modern polo, try to ward them off. If the player in possession can circle the ground and return to throw down the carcass where play began, he is the hero of the hour. Once upon a time he would throw it onto the roof of a Yurt, the cylindrical cone-roofed tent of nomadic people all over Central Asia. Custom then required that the Yurt-dweller treat both teams to a banquet.