The pungent manure-like aroma hits the nose the second the door to the Oxley Equestrian Center is cracked open. The mist of dust from the dirt being kicked up by horses who have their tails tied (which prompted my friend to inquire if that’s how we derived the term ponytail) never fades. These two sensory stimulating characteristics still stick with me even three days after I watched a women’s polo match at Cornell. The women are undefeated and were winning against U of Maryland 12-3 at halftime, when my friend and I left to drive back and watch the NCAA basketball tourney. The men are just as good and lost in the national championship game last year to Texas A&M.
The concept of the game is simple enough (at least I think it is. I might be completely botching how I interpreted the sport): hit the ball into your opponent’s garage door and score a point. Indoor polo has 3 horses and riders per side and they cycle around the ball one rider behind the next simultaneously attempting to hit the ball or block their opponent from doing so. There are three types of penalties: Penalty 1, Penalty 2, and Penalty 3. If the other team commits penalty 1 you get an automatic goal, which fascinated me because in no sport that I can think of is any team awarded an automatic point, though basketball comes close with goaltending. And only in tennis, if one is watching Serena Williams, does one here the consistency and loudness of the grunting that each horse performs during the intermission between quarters.