CSU Polo Club brings its winning ways to Rocky Mountain Horse Expo; Tops Harvard
March 21, 2014
The Colorado State University Polo Club returned to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo this year for an intercollegiate match.
The CSU Polo Club — founded in 1977, and a student-run organization — requires no previous polo experience to join, but as the group demonstrated at the expo, the students are doing a great job in terms of managing and coaching themselves.
Polo Club faculty adviser, Dr. Jason Bruemmer with the Equine Science Department, said the men and women regularly go to the national tournament.
The men have won the national tournament three times, and were the first team of any sport in CSU's history to win a national championship.
And they were in winning form again against Harvard at the Horse Expo, held March 7-9.
CSU won 14-7 to improve to 9-1 on the season.
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The women's team played at the Events Center in 2013 — but this year it was the men's turn.
Polo has a long history at CSU.
Polo at CSU is a club sport, but club president Ryan Hattera is quick to point out that they are different from the other clubs.
"We are a registered CSU club sport. We're definitely a part of the school, but we are different from, say, the golf club, or other club sports. We are more tied into the college of Agriculture and Animal Sciences. We kind of do our own thing a lot of the time. We're off campus and in a different facility. Our club is pretty much self-run. We rely on our students to run the club. We make our own decisions regarding the horses and things like what teams we want to play. It's really a student-run organization."
In addition to the men's and women's varsity teams, the club has a large beginner and junior varsity program.
Hattera, who is a senior at CSU and in his fourth year with the polo team, continued, "We are self-coached. We have been for a number of years. We're not allowed to pay a coach, so that limits us to people that are willing to spend some time each week to help us out. But we bring in a lot of clinicians, as well as the fact that we have a very talented men's team and we are able to teach each other and talk about things where we can see room for improvement. That's what we are used to and it works pretty well for us."
The members of the Polo Club all speak highly of the positive benefits the Polo Club affords them.
"The club has been a great experience for me," said sophomore James Damone. "I came into CSU and I had not played polo before. I was really lucky when I came here, in that there was a great group of guys that really brought me along and took me under their wing. I have taken on a leadership role as horse manager. It's a great opportunity to build up your resume. It's fun to see new members come in and get excited about polo and I really enjoy teaching the beginner group when they come in."
The CSU polo teams play indoor or arena polo.
Arena Polo has three people on a team and plays four seven and a half minute chukkers, or periods. The indoor game uses a small inflatable leather ball which is hit with the flat side of the mallet.
An interesting aspect of polo is that it is by rule a right-handed game. This is done to protect players and horses. Polo is definitely a contact sport and most of the rules are in place to protect the horses.
Because of the high cost of hauling horses and tack, the visiting team arrives with only the equipment that they wear. All horses, saddles, etc., are supplied by the home team.
Polo is a game of strength, speed and stamina. A chukker takes a lot out of horses and riders. The game is divided into four chukkers. At the end of each chukker, the teams switch horses and fresh mounts are brought in at the beginning of the third chukker.
The starting players for CSU against Harvard this month were Kareem Rosser back #I, Jered Berg back #II, and Ryan Hattara back #III.
"I played the "#I" position and that's more of the attacking position. Ideally, it's my job to score a lot of goals, but everyone can score. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time today, and got a lot of scoring opportunities," said Rosser.
"Definitely Harvard came to compete and we always come out to compete as well. Yesterday we played Harvard and we only beat them by two goals," said Rosser, "We decided we needed to come out with a little more intensity and play a little harder and with better defense. I think we played a great defensive game today and we were able to capitalize on our scoring opportunities. I think a great defense led to offensive opportunities for us."
Kareem Rosser is an example of the change in polo in the United States — that anyone can play the game today, and the image of only those with trust funds playing is fading fast.
"I began riding in Philadelphia. I actually came through a program known as 'Work to Ride,' a nonprofit organization that reaches out to inner-city youth in Philadelphia. I started riding about age 9 and have been riding since then," said Rosser.
Asked why he chose polo, Rosser replied, "It's different. Not too many kids, at least where I come from, get the opportunity to even ride, so to play polo is just an amazing opportunity. It's an exhilarating feeling when you're out there. I enjoy the horses and I really enjoy a competing."
Wil Schorre of the U.S. Polo Association said, "We are really trying to foster more beginners, and especially youth, into polo through the Polo Training Foundation. It promotes responsibility to a team through equestrian sports. We want beginners, people that may want a little more adventure than roping or barrel racing and want to get into a competitive sport. Arena polo is a great way to do just that. Just one or two horses and you can get in the game." ❖