Gladiator Polo originated in Wellington as a way to expand the reach of equestrian sports to fans of action-packed events like hockey or football. It combines elements of both field polo and arena polo, and in just over two years has garnered both a national and international following.
To the delight of fans, the sport is returning this winter to the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
Contrary to traditional equestrian competitions, where audience participation is encouraged only before and after a rider competes, Gladiator Polo is fueled by a rowdy crowd. Spectators are encouraged to cheer on their favorite team throughout the entire match.
There are two teams of three players pitted against each other in a small, enclosed arena, giving spectators an up close and personal look at the action. Another unique feature of Gladiator Polo is the distinctive team uniforms that both the horses and riders wear — from the players’ helmets all the way down to the horses’ leg wraps — making it easy for spectators to follow the game and cheer on their team.
The game consists of six chukkers each lasting five minutes, so the game is slightly shorter than a polo match on a regulation grass field. Riders change horses at the end of each chukker, but Gladiator Polo does not require the large number of horses to play that outdoor/grass polo demands. Many players use horses twice, alternating horses each chukker.
Another main difference between indoor and outdoor polo is the game ball. For Gladiator Polo, the ball is similar to a mini soccer ball, so it is larger than the small, hard plastic ball used outdoors. Proper technique is definitely important for indoor polo, because the arena game is played on a sand mixture with the ball bouncing on the uneven surface and off the arena walls regularly.
Look for Gladiator Polo to return to the IPC Arena in 2020. For more information, visit www.gladiatorpolo.com.