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Serena Solomon
July 18, 2014
What's a Chukker? How to Talk, Dress and Behave at a Polo Match
By Serena Solomon
Friday, July 18, 2014 :: Posted 08:45:26 AM EDT


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NEW YORK CITY — It's easy to spot people who have never been to a polo match, according to Leighton Jordan from Bridgehampton Polo Club. They don't keep an eye on the game.

The thundering hooves of eight 1,200-pound horses often come close to field's edge, not to mention a 100-mile-an-hour ball that is occasionally knocked into the well-dressed crowd.

"The first thing is safety when you are sitting on the sidelines," said Jordan, the managing director of the club, which is a two-hour train ride into Long Island from Penn Station.

The six-week season at the Bridgehampton Polo Club at the Two Trees Farm starts Saturday and a match costs $30 per carload of spectators.

While its reputation might be for high-class snobbery, polo matches in and around New York City can be as accessible as they are exciting. As polo players ready for Bridgehampton's annual season, here's a guide on how an amateur can blend into the crowd.   

What to Say

Like entry into any community, using well-timed and appropriate polo lingo can help you fit in.

Chukker: Instead of halves or quarters, segments in polo matches are divided into seven and a half minute chukkers. There are six or more in one match.

Ponies: Horses are often used in today's polo matches, but the smaller and more agile ponies were the steed of choice throughout its history. The name stuck and it is appropriate to refer to the horses as polo ponies, said Jordan.

Divot Stomp: At halftime, spectators are invited onto the field to replace the chunks of grass that have been churned up by hooves and the mallets that are used to strike the ball.

Flagger: A person stationed behind each goal (a pair of striped poles) to signal if a goal was missed or scored. A flag raised high indicates success, but a low-hanging flag means a miss.

Throw In: To start a play, one of two umpires or perhaps a distinguished guest throws the solid polo ball between the two teams of four players. 

 Silke Tsitiridis and Gaby Karen de Felice at a Bridgehampton Polo Club match. Silke Tsitiridis and Gaby Karen de Felice at a Bridgehampton Polo Club match. View Full Caption
Bridgehampton Polo Club

What to Wear

A polo match head attire is not be confused with the elaborate hats of the Kentucky Derby, according to stylist Dawn Del Russo.

At the polo match, wear hats practical for sun coverage — anything from fedoras to cowboy hats for those who want an edgier look. Attendees can also try a parasol, said Shamin Abas, the event planner Bridgehampton's season.

Stiletto heels are another amateur mistake.

"Heels sink in [to the grass] and you will ruin your shoes," said Del Russo. She suggested wedges, fancy flats or shoes with chunky heels.

As to the style of clothes, Del Russo said "classic and sophisticated" is the theme with bright colors and sundresses that are comfortable and long enough for sitting on the grass. Pastels and white — "the color of the summer" — are also good options, she said.

For men, attending any polo match gives them a chance to put on some bright colors in breezy fabrics like seersucker shirts and suits, according to Del Russo. Those who are more conservative can wear khaki pants with blazers, but never jeans, she said.  

How to Behave

Cheering and clapping will not scare the horses and is "absolutely welcomed," according to Jordan from the Bridgehampton Polo Club. A goal or a good play, such as an interception or a long run up the field by a player, are reasons to celebrate, he said.

Abas said attendees can bring a picnic and rug with rose wine, the unofficial polo drink of choice. Patrons also hold tailgate parties before and after the match from their cars.

But, it's never ideal to drink too much, she said.

Dogs are also welcome at the Bridgehampton Polo Club, but they must be on a leash.

Bridgehampton Polo Club plays at the Two Trees Farm 849 Hayground Road in Bridgehampton. The grounds are a five minute cab ride from Bridgehampton LIRR station. And if LIRR trains aren't available due to a possible strike, check here or here for other transit options.


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