Polo- Hats, Horses and Hordes of ...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Manicured green lawn, white pavilion, elegant grandstand, big wide rim hats,  handsome European and Argentinian jockeys, floral and solid sundresses, tailgating, endless champagne, and champion horses can only mean one extravaganza--Equestrian Polo. 

Last Sunday I was invited to the final game, my first polo match at the Polo Club in Wellington. (My only prior experience was a polo event on the beach in South Beach). It was the end to the winter polo season in South Florida, in Wellington, Florida. 

So often people ask if it's like the scenes from "My Fair Lady" (a musical starring Audrey Hepburn)  or "Pretty Woman". It is and more.

Couple at VIP tent with buckets of champagne

Candidly for most it's less about the game, and more about the fashion, people watching and drinking. First the location. Why Wellington? It is home to the The International Polo Club Palm Beach, a premier polo destination in the world, hosting the largest field of high-goal teams and the most prestigious polo tournaments in the United States. It is horse country.  A welcome escape from downtown city life for me.

The season opened on Sunday, January 4, and concluded 16 weeks later with the 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship® final on Sunday, April 19. Polo matches are open to the public, with a wide range of hospitality and guest seating that includes elegant grandstand viewing, field tailgating, lawn seating, field-side champagne brunch at The Pavilion, and exclusive sponsor boxes.

Surprisingly general admission starts at a reasonable $10 for a sport dubbed "snooty" in one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S.  My invitation was to attend a VIP party at the tents on the opposite side of the grandstand viewing. 

VIP /tailgating party tents
They were packed for the final day

What to wear? Men wear jackets, a short or long sleeve polo shirt, and long shorts or slacks.  Pastel colors is typical. But ladies, it's all about the dress and hat. Above the knee, fitting floral sundresses seemed the most popular.  In January, February, fitted ankle length pants is acceptable. But as temperature rises in the spring, long flowing or looser short dresses are the best choice. The hat? The more outrageous, the wider brim, the better.  Shoes--wedge heels.  Flats and sandals were acceptable. But not spiked heels or platforms. Never.  Otherwise you may be mistaken as the Vivian  before she became "Pretty".

Traditional garb at Polo matches

For special occasions such as opening day, Easter and the finals, attendees are more formal. In this case my sundress was more prim and proper, and not my usual sexy- a- la- Miami style.  Accessorized with pearl necklace, earrings and complementary cream hat and ankle wedge shoes, I was reminded of the derby races I attended  in Northern Virginia some 20 years ago.

At halftime it was a sudden stampede!  Everyone grabbed their drinks and rushed to the field for a social tradition called "divot stomping". 
Halftime tradition "divot stomping" with Good Year blimp above
This is the only time spectators are permitted on the field.
What is it? Actually it's a brilliant PR move and cheap labor solution. The crowds are invited to tread in the divots kicked up by the horses. In the 1920's  grounds- keeping crews tapped in the divots with oversized croquet mallets. Now spectators can socialize on the sacred field while performing a functional purpose.  Ironically,  the more alcohol one has consumed, the more productive they are on the field. Speaking of alcohol, there's no shortage at polo tailgating party or VIP tents. Hordes of it.
No Prohibition era here. Love the hat!
1. In the equestrian sport of polo the object of the game is to move the polo ball down-field, hitting it through the goal for a score.
2. Polo is an equestrian team sport, usually played outdoors, with four polo players on each team.
3. A polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, the largest field in organized sport.
4. A polo match lasts about two hours and is divided into 6 timed periods called chukkers.
For more interesting facts about the Polo game, click here for POLO 101.  Did you know lefties are banned from playing? Click on the link to find out why!
Wed did escape the crowds to sit in practically empty bleachers on the VIP side to watch some of the game. The game was tied towards the end. Quite exciting!
Horses are stunning and  intelligent  creatures, a symbol of America's pioneer spirit. I was more mesmerized by their grace and strength.
 I highly recommend polo for a Sunday activity after daylight savings in March for the sophisticated 40 year old+ for socializing, networking, absorbing the fashion scene and admiring the horses and the competition of the sport. And the Champagne brunch of course!
Congratulations to Valiente for their victorious win over Orchard Hill. Third time's the charm.


1. The last day is one of the busiest days.  While the doors open at 2:30pm for a 3:00pm start, the line of cars to enter was about 45 minutes long. With only one entrance, the line of cars did not move and you could not cut in last minute. Many police officers were planted along the route so no cutting in.  So plan to arrive at 2pm and stock up on patience!

2. The Grandstand is a great location to watch the game and people watch. Plus you can sit mostly in the shade.  On the other side of the field are the VIP and tailgating tents. On busy days, it gets warm so dress cool and comfortably. Also the tent most likely will not have chairs for everyone. 

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More photos to come on Instagram @miamichristine !!!

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