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Discover the History & Origins of the Oldest Equestrian Sport

Discover the History & Origins of the Oldest Equestrian Sport

A brief history of the revered equestrian ballgame and the current happenings not to be missed while in The Palm Beaches this Winter/Spring.

Long been dubbed “The Sport of Kings,” and known as one of the world’s oldest-known team sports, polo has since evolved into a prestigious, spirited pastime for equestrians, spectators and high society. The concept of polo dates back from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD and said to be originated from equestrian games played by nomadic Iranian and Turkic peoples. Today, the field game of swift riders and even swifter horses is widely popular around the world—with well over 100 member countries in the Federation of International Polo and played professionally in 16 countries (including the U.S., governed by the United States Polo Association).  The traditional horseback game is played by two opposing teams of players with the objective of scoring using a long-handled, wooden mallet to hit a small, hard ball through the opposing team’s goal posts. The pristinely manicured playing field is 300 by 160 yards, the area of approximately six soccer fields or nine American football fields. Each team has four mounted riders, and the game usually lasts 1-2 hours, divided into periods called chukkas or “chukkers.” During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called “divot stamping”, which was developed not only to help replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses’ hooves, but also to afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialize with one another before the next match. If you’d chomping at the bit to experience this historic and novel equestrian event yourself, then The Palm Beaches should be on your next trip itinerary.   

Two Polo Players

Palm Beach International Polo Season

It comes to no surprise that polo in The Palm Beaches is considered by many the ultimate “Sunday Funday,” seeing as Wellington, a village just west of West Palm Beach, is widely considered the Equestrian Winter Capital of the World. From January through April, the highly anticipated Palm Beach International Polo Season saddles up in Wellington.  The world’s premier polo athletes descend on The Palm Beaches to compete, while local socialites, international celebrities and enthusiasts gallop to the area to watch the world-class tournaments of horses and players bring their A games. The Season brings with it its beloved traditions like divot-stamping and field-side champagne brunch. Held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, spectators revel year-after-year in the celebrated and famous Sunday Brunch, and if you happen to make it, you’ll see exactly why…   Purchase your Sunday Brunch tickets here.  

Discover the History & Origins of the Oldest Equestrian Sport

Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center hosts the 13-week Winter Equestrian Festival, January to April. Not only is the Festival one of the largest annual sporting events in The Palm Beaches, but it’s also the longest-running equestrian event in the world. It attracts national and international athletes competing for prizes, readying for the Olympics, or beginning careers in equestrian. Riders from 2-70 years old (amateurs to Olympians) compete for millions in prizes atop more than 6,000 highly trained horses.  The venue is a sight to behold with more than 18 competition arenas on 500 acres of purely equestrian-focused grounds. The main International Arena is surrounded by stadium and box seating as well as hospitality pavilions, while the main grounds house more than 250 permanent equine stalls, horse trails, pedestrian paths, golf cart tracks and dedicated dining/shopping areas with 100+ vendors for attendees. Each Saturday night, 10,000 fans fill the stands to enjoy the main event: the Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix, with the most celebrated jumping show of the week and various live entertainment.  The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is open to spectators Wednesday to Sunday, between January 5 and April 3, 2022. In case you can’t make it in person, you can still see the show jumping via live stream.


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