Polo: The Sport of Kings, Hoosier-style
Perhaps as early as 500 B.C. the sport of polo has been played on horse-trodden fields in distant lands like India, China and Persia – and today, in Whitestown, Indiana. On summer weekends men and women gather at Hickory Hall Polo Club to swing mallets at four-inch diameter wooden or plastic balls, taking aim and banging away toward distant goalposts while astride powerful thoroughbred horses that first gallop, then turn abruptly, all for good times and good causes. Welcome to polo, Hoosier-style.
“I love horses – have had ‘em all my life,” explained Ron Marburger, a Hickory Hall polo player and owner of E.F. Marburger Fine Flooring in Fishers. “I also love athletics, so it’s a perfect combination. Playing on top of a horse works for me and, I don’t have to run fast anymore, the horse does that.”
Marburger first played the game as a teen while a student at Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana. He quit, then 35 years later re-discovered his polo passion. He has paid a painful price having endured a torn meniscus, two torn rotator cuffs, and arm surgery. There’s a reason polo is recognized as the second most dangerous sporting activity in the world, after auto racing. Which begs the question: Why, at age 70, does Marburger keep playing? “Why do people skydive?” he chuckled. “I couldn’t live without polo, or at least not happily. I love it!”
Club founder Greg Chandler labeled polo as “great physical exercise” requiring a tremendous amount of athleticism from riders. “Your heart is pounding; every muscle is worked hard. After a match you are just physical drained,” explained Chandler. “It’s not just sitting on a horse. The sport is extremely demanding.”
Chandler founded the 12-member Hickory Hall Polo Club for two primary reasons: to secure official sanctioning by the U.S. Polo Association – a needed designation to schedule matches against quality teams – and as an effective tool for charitable fundraising.
Each summer, Hickory Hall schedules 16 matches, each with a designated charity recipient. Donation funds come from admission fees, silent auctions, corporate sponsorships, and purchases of private, sideline viewing boxes. “Donna [Greg’s wife] and I love ways that we can give back to the community. These charity matches have generated thousands of dollars for a variety of organizations in Boone and surrounding counties,” noted Chandler.
While polo is often called The Sport of Kings, women also ride and play alongside the men. It’s just one of several reasons that the local polo community touts theirs as a unique sport. Indeed, Chandler said most people have no idea that polo has been played in Indiana for at least 70 years, nor do they know who’s playing it. “People are intrigued,” Chandler said, adding that the public is always welcome to attend the club’s charity matches.
To learn more about polo in Whitestown visit www.hickoryhallpoloclub.com.