The familiar crack of a bamboo mallet reverberates through the dry Colorado air, and with some serious maneuvering, I manage to turn the 1,100-pound steed I’m riding toward the action on the polo pitch. As we close in on our target, I take aim: One swing sends the four-ounce white ball soaring through the air. My horse whinnies, and we’re off again.
I’d discovered polo 10 months earlier while studying at the University of Oxford, which, looking back, probably wasn’t the best place to start my polo career. While my club teammates had been playing for years, I’d barely watched a full game. But having grown up riding, I could hold my own in a saddle—and quickly learned that you don’t have to be royalty to swing a mallet. What you do need is grit: Matches (“chukkers”) combine the fast-paced physicality of hockey with the more refined swings and cultured attitudes of golf.
I couldn’t wait to try my new skills on this side of the pond. Colorado may not have the blue-blooded cred of England, but horsemanship is practically a birthright in this part of the West. In fact, Colorado’s first polo players used the grounds at the Denver Country Club as their playing field—much to the golfers’ dismay—in 1909. Today, we lay claim to seven active clubs.
Practically straight off the plane, I beelined for those grassy fields to give my skills a try at altitude. And this time when I dismounted, I was looking at a backdrop of towering Rocky Mountains instead of dreary English drizzle. Prince Harry, eat your heart out.
Learn: Take a private ($70/hour) or group ($60/hour) lesson at the Denver Polo Club, denverpoloclub.com.
$600,000: The approximate amount that last year’s Schomp BMW Denver Polo Classic—the nation’s largest charitable polo tournament—raised for local children’s causes. Watch some of the world’s best riders during the 25th Classic, June 22–24. denverpolo.com