Six horses roaring toward each other at 30 miles per hour, each carrying a man or woman with a long mallet, trying to hit a tiny ball across a field.
It’s hockey on horseback – fast, precise and a little bit dangerous.
“I’ve flown airplanes and gliders and done a lot of things I thought would push me to my limits,” said Nicholas Francoeur, a Space Force officer and polo player. “I have found nothing that provides the same thrill as polo.”
“It’s not just about how well you can play, but how well you can play on the particular horse you’re on,” he said. “When you’re out there, you feel the horse breathing. There’s this connection between you and this horse. … That animal agrees to have you on its back.”
The Sport of Kings, Colorado-Style
After a nearly century-long hiatus, polo is returning to Colorado Springs.
And not just any polo – winter polo, outdoors at Norris Penrose Event Center. That means it could be snowing. Or muddy. Or windy. Or rainy. Who knows? It’ll be the Front Range in February – the uncertainty is part of the fun. Coloradans are accustomed to skiing, snowshoeing and other outdoor sports in winter. Why not polo?
One of the world’s oldest sports, it’s been around for thousands of years. Traditionally, polo is a game played by high society and the military. The terms are at first a bit intimidating: pony goals, tail shots, chukkers. But… if you’re a newbie to the sport, no sweat.
“You don’t have to ever have been to a polo match,” said Davis Tutt, director of operations for Colorado Sports Corporation, which is partnering with The Broadmoor to present the event. “The announcer will explain polo for the uninitiated, so everyone should leave with a better understanding of the sport.”
Tutt said they’re trying to bring a new sport to the rodeo crowd – “people who are used to more of a laid-back, equine event.” To that end, tickets will be more affordable than at many polo events: $35 for general admission. And the Colorado Springs version will be played in a smaller arena, with three horse/human teams on each side.
“We’re really just trying to get people close up against the action,” Tutt said. “You can do it on dirt. You can play in the snow. You can get dirty.”
He added that there would be “elevated,” winter-themed concessions and halftime entertainment.
Bringing Back the Old
Polo has a tradition dating back more than 2,600 years to Persia. Modern polo originated in northeastern India in the mid-1800s, according to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Florida. From India, it spread to Europe, South America and Australia and beyond.
The sport eventually made its way to Colorado, with The Broadmoor serving as a premier polo center in the early 1900s. Resort founder Spencer Penrose was an active player in the polo community and installed four 900’ x 1800’ polo fields and stables for over 400 horses on the Broadmoor campus. A Broadmoor gentlemen's polo team competed nationally.
And as interest and attention for outdoor sports continued to grow, local enthusiasts organized “The Broadmoor Polo Association” along with “The Penrose Polo Park.”
During the Great Depression and World War II, however, interest in polo waned and the Broadmoor polo auditorium was eventually converted into an indoor ice arena for figure skating. Over the last half-century, polo has seen a resurgence and today, there are more than 275 polo clubs registered with the United States Polo Association, according to the Museum of Polo. There are three registered polo clubs in Colorado: Denver Polo Club, Aspen Valley Polo Club, and Colorado State University Polo Club.
Winter and snow polo were first showcased by a Swiss polo team in 1985. Today, polo on snow with cold temperatures is played across the globe from Aspen in the U.S. and Cortina in Italy to Tianjin in China. And beginning February 2023, The Broadmoor will again join the active polo scene by offering the Winter Polo Classic on Feb. 25.
“You know what’s in these days? Old things,” Francoeur said, citing the popular retro fashion brand Aviator Nation. “I think we can do that with polo, too.”
What to Expect
Colorado State University Polo will provide the horses, and the players will come from around the country. Francoeur is expected to be among them.
What will the audience see?
“They’re going to see horses that are passionate about the sport,” Francoeur said. “They’re going to see players who almost need that sense of speed. ... You’re going to see an audience that is a little shocked.”
He promised fun and excitement for all ages and said part of his goal is to get the Springs’ large military community out to see something that is such a part of its heritage. Tickets range from $35 to $50.