MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Just north of Loop 250 you can find the Midland Polo Club.
The current 30-acre facility has been hosting professional polo matches since 1965, but you can trace Midland’s history with the sport back to the early 1900s.
Playing on a field about three times the size of a football field, polo requires two teams of four, all on horseback.
In polo, all players use a in their right hand and teams must hit a hard plastic ball between goalposts to score. Depending on the league level polo has either, four or six, seven-and-a-half minute periods, known as chukkers. The team with the most goals and the end of the last chukker wins.
A full team has four players who all ride in a vertical line trying to hit the ball closer to their goal as the opposing team tries to knock the ball away.
Setting up a season requires a lot of logistics often handled by Club Manager Violeta Escapite. Escapite schedules the league year while getting umpires and players for the season. She has been the manager for about two years, but has received the help needed to run a polo club that’s smaller than most.
“All the sponsors having to put in effort and time and and being accommodating to make it work because it is such a small club,” said Escapite.
“With bigger clubs, you have other factors that come into play. But with us being so small, you need all the help from everyone.”
All pro players registered with the U.S. Polo Association (USPA) are rated on their skill from -2 goals to 10 goals with 10 being the best.
One of the club’s best players Daniel Galindo, who’s also known as “Cacho”, played polo at Texas A&M and won a national championship in 2016 after watching his dad Carlos play for years.
He’s competed all over the country, but says the community in Midland makes playing in West Texas special.
“It’s definitely unique here where it’s just a smaller community, but it’s a growing one,” said Galindo who manages the Brushy Creek team barn.
“Really genuine connections between all the players and just out here to be competitive but still have fun at the same time.”
It takes a lot of skill to be good at polo but almost just as important is who you’re playing with.
“The number one thing is you need this horse. Horses. Horses is what? They’re 75% of the of the game,” said Daniel’s father Carlos who plays and teaches polo at the club.
“If you have a good horse, you’re going to end up winning that play. You turn into one [player] when you’re on your horse.”
Players typically use one horse per chukker to avoid exhaustion requiring at least six horses per player for every match.
Supplying quality horses was the Basin’s reputation in the polo world back in the mid 1930s, something current management would like to re-establish.
“We’ve been working really hard to bring in really good horses so we can continue the heritage of being a source for the U.S. for really good horses,” said Daniel.
Lately instead of horses, Midland has become known for producing players who develop quickly. Many have gone on to compete oversees establishing a different but strong reputation for Midland in the global polo community.
“You go all over the world and see and hear about people like in London, England and a lot of the ten-goal players that were there that by the summer got their start here in Midland,” said Midland Polo Club President Jenni Hord.
“I want to honor the history and the heritage and the roots that so many people have experienced here and Midland is held in high esteem in the polo world.”
While playing with a horse sets polo apart from most mainstream sports, so does the game’s primary means of growing. There’s social media, but more than most sports, polo relies on face-to-face contact especially here in the Basin.
The club hopes to bring in new members and further the tradition of Polo in Midland.
“A lot of people that lived here 30 years didn’t know this was out here,” said Carlos.
“It is word of mouth, people that come out here and start talking. I think in the last two years, we’ve actually had double the people coming out and watch [from] 30 years ago. I think we’re getting back what we used to have.”
To learn more about the Midland Polo Club, visit their website for contact information and how to get involved with the club.