RMHE features CSU in an Intercollegiate Women’s Polo Match
March 19, 2012
The highly ranked Colorado State University Women’s Polo Club took on a tough team from the University of Kentucky Polo Club during the 2012 Horse Expo held at the Stock Show Complex in Denver, Colo. This was the first time that the Horse Expo had featured a polo match, but judging from the enthusiastic crowd support, it will not be the last.
Polo has a long history at CSU. The Polo Club was founded in 1977 and is an entirely student run organization. In addition to the men’s and women’s varsity teams, the club has a large beginner and junior varsity program. No previous polo experience is required to join so there are at least 30 members who are just learning polo.
All student organizations are required to have a facility advisor and the Polo Club advisor is Dr. Jason Bruemmer of the Equine Science Department. Dr. Bruemmer is quick to point out that the Polo Club is run by the student members, “Everything is done by the students. They don’t have a coach. They coach themselves, they manage themselves. All I do is provide them with help in getting arena time and making sure that they get the right people to take care of the horses at the right time.”
The students are doing a great job when it comes to managing and coaching themselves. Dr. Bruemmer continues, “They go regularly to the national tournament. Last year the men were third in the nation and the women were fifth. Right now the men are ranked second in the nation and the women are ranked fourth or fifth. We play within a region and we almost always win our region, which gives us a spot in the national tournament. The men have won the national tournament three times. They were the first team of any sport to win a national championship in CSU’s history.”
The Polo Club owns over 20 horses that were donated to the Club, and to keep their equine partners athletically fit the students practice three days a week and exercise the horses for three days. That gives the students only one day off a week. That schedule alone requires a tremendous amount of dedication, but the club members also have to find ways to make up the $65,000 dollar gap between the $5,000 the university gives them and the $70,000 required just to feed and maintain the horses.
The CSU polo teams play indoor or arena polo. There are a few rule differences between indoor and outdoor polo, but the major differences are three players instead of four, and a playing field that is 300 feet long instead of the 300 yard length of the outdoor arena. The ball is quite different. The indoor game uses a small inflatable leather ball and the outdoor ball is smaller and made of solid plastic.
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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. There are two mounted referees and whistles and penalty shots are an integral part of the game.
The three members of the CSU Women’s Polo Team all played in high school and have a real dedication to the sport of polo. Kristen Wenning, Back No. 1, is a Junior in Biomedical Science Pre Vet. Kristen started riding in Hunter/Jumper until she discovered polo. “I like the speed of it and the heart that you have to have to be a competitive team. I like the team aspect and the horses.”
Laura Dallam, Back No. 2, is from Maryland and a Sophomore History Major. Laura has been playing polo for five years. “It is the most amazing sport that I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of sports. I think how small the team is makes a big difference. We are all really close and we love our horses more than anything and we love this sport.”
Dani Kammann, Back No. 3, is a Junior Agricultural Business major from San Diego and has been playing polo for five years. “I just love polo because of the horses and I love how aggressive it is. I quit playing Lacrosse because I loved being around the horses and because of that aggression in it. I also like how you can get really close to your team mates.”
The match against Kentucky was going to be a tough one for CSU and Laura Dallam was very familiar with the players. “University of Kentucky is a very good team. They won (national title) two years ago with almost this exact same team. They all played in high school. I actually went to high school with three out of the four players, so I know them well. They are all excellent.”
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. The game is divided into four ‘chukkers.’ At the end of each ‘chukker,’ the teams switch horses and fresh mounts are brought in for the third ‘chukker.’
CSU started the match fast and quickly built up a seven to nothing lead. Kentucky fought back and tied the score. CSU kept the score close and the teams exchanged the lead through out the third ‘chukker.’ CSU took the lead late in the fourth ‘chukker’ and went on to take a satisfying 20-18 victory.