The world of Polo – “The Sport of Kings”
The Inanda Development Cup 2015 was held at the Inanda Club in Inanda Sandton on the 31st of May 2015. The Inanda Development Cup, presented by Land Rover provides opportunities for talented, underprivileged and aspirant polo players to participate in the sport and possibly become professionals in this arena, the Inanda Polo Academy has successfully trained six development players, all of whom are now competing at professional level in renowned tournaments.
For the horse groomers, their job starts way before the actual polo game commences. They prepare the horses for each game and chukka (The number of chukkas played describes the period of play and governed by the rules of the particular tournament, the norm being six chukkas. Each Chukka is seven-and-a-half minutes long, with breaks of three minutes between chukkas and five minutes at half time).
Polo ponies need to be trained so that they are not afraid to bump into other ponies, and not to shy at the ball or at mallets swinging near their heads. Groomers ensure that each of the ponies is bandaged so that they aren’t hurt when accidentally hit by mallets. Each player has to have four ponies for the match to be used at each chukka.
Busaphi Dhlamini, a groomer who travelled to the tournament from Mpumalanga, has been working as a groomer for the past 7 years. “I have always loved horses since my childhood. As a groomer, it feels good when your team and horses win matches. Some of the groomers play Polo as part of developing and training these horses”.
Before the match, each groomer rides each pony that will take part in the game to warm them. During each chukka, the groomers will then assist players with the changes. After the match, each pony is also walked to decrease the adrenaline generated during the match, as well as to calm them. They are then washed to cool them down. Some ponies will roll around the dirt to scratch their backs or be fidgety, hence the need to calm them. They are also brushed and feed before being loaded into the trucks in preparing them to be transported back to their homes.
Polo is fast, furious and features a great alliance between human and horse – together with its reputation to attract the young and glamorous, it is no wonder polo is labelled “The Sport of Kings”. However, the groomers are often paid minimum wages. They are often away from their families, as they have to travel with each tournament and games. John Madzuse, who comes from Swaziland, explained that his complaint about the job is the time he spends away from his loved ones and children, aside from the income.