Sunday, June 8, 2008

Safari Polo Cross

Here is a 'cultural event' I did not think I would witness in Zambia - Safari Polocross!

The tournament has been running for 16 years - local teams invite international players (this year from South Africa and from India) and folks at all levels play - even kids!
Very briefly, each team plays with 4 players (including one foreign player). They play on a field 300yards x 200 yards with a solid plastic (hard foam) weighing 100 grams - just bigger than a softball. Players hold mallets in their right hands and strike the ball with the side of the mallet head. A match consists of 4-6 'chukkas' (depending on how many horses there are available); each chukka is 7 minutes. A horse is usually allowed to play up to 2 chukkas but rarely plays more than one. The object is to put the ball through the posts at each end of the field. There used to be height restrictions on horses (hence the term polo ponies) but now no such restrictions exist - most are 15-16 hands high. In Africa, the vast majority of horses are thoroughbreds coming from race tracks in SA or Zimbabwe. (Zimbabwe's political situation is bringing some interesting changes in the availability of better horses in Zambia - a strange side story to the upheaval there.) There are many rules about 'right of way' about 'challenges' and 'bumping' and pentalties for fouls but no 'offsides' or 'corners.'

Horses are a big part of expat life here and I have to say there is nothing cuter than our new little 4 year old friend in her riding pants, boots and purple helmet - maybe her 3 year old brother in HIS outfit and spider-man helmet?! Owen has been lucky to go to several horse shows to watch his 10 year old crush ride and of course now has seen polo up close and personal; he has yet to get up the nerve to be anything but a spectator. Whew.

The kids were content to sit and watch an entire match between the "Holiday Inn" team and the "Global Logistics" team. The photots from that match (HI 5, GL2). More on "Global Logistics" later...

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