The Sport of Kings

Summer is winding down , you’ve most likely already been to the beach if you are going. Gasoline prices are so high we can’t afford too many long trips this summer anyway.  If you are looking for a Sunday afternoon of entertainment, I think I may have something that may interest you.  Could be another of those Harford County things that have been going on right under your nose that you know nothing about.

There is a team sport which has been played around the world for over 2500 years. and played in America since before the turn of the Century.  As for Harford County, it’s been played here every summer since a club was formed in 1972, when the Maryland Polo Club was established in Jarrettsville MD (3653 Fallston Rd).

Polo has been a recorded team sport since it was played by the Persians over 2500 years ago when they placed teams of over 100 men onto a field on horseback as a method of training them in horsemanship, team work and skill riding with one hand while wielding a club and striking a ball with the other.  The matches looked like battles and from these  came the choices for the elite Emperors guard.

British officers saw the game being played in India around 1860 and created a contest of 4-man teams hitting a ball from one team to another in a gentlemanly fashion.  Around 1875, an American sportsman named James G Bennett imported it into the United States and the rest, as they say, is history.

We made it a game of our own, lasting for 2 hours with hard riding and ball striking, still utilizing a 4-man team with 2 attackers, 1 playmaker and 1 defense man but it is a pretty loose game with riders all over the field.  And that is a large field, called a Pitch, which is 300 yards long and  160 yards wide, with goal post at each end, just 24 feet apart. That is the largest field in any organized sport.

It is one of the most exciting of horse and rider sports but there is as much regard for the health and safety of the horse as it is for the rider.  Participants usually have several horses, which they  call  a “string” of Polo Ponies. They are all full-sized horses and American Polo Ponies are usually a cross between a Thoroughbred and a Quarter Horse.

On horseback, they pursue a ball about the size of a hockey puck and strike it with a mallet on the end of a stick a little over 4 feet long, trying to hit it between the goal posts at each end of the field. Polo was even an Olympic Sport for quite a few years but after it’s appearance in the 1936 Olympics, it was  not picked up again after the interruption of WWII.

Despite its disclusion in other events, polo matches have been happening every year since 1972 on a field on Mountain Rd or Rt 152, whichever you prefer , above Fallston, just before you get to Jarrettsville Pike…It is called the Ladew Field and is actually behind Ladew Gardens, the well-known Topiary Gardens on the Pike. You have missed a few matches this year but there are still 8 scheduled matches left before they stop for the winter.

Every Friday night at 6 PM and every Sunday afternoon at 3 PM there is a match held at their field on Rt.152.  They began on June 1 this year and the last match is scheduled to take place on September 9, totalling 30 matches for the season.

Some believe the reason Polo has been around for so long is due to the special bond formed and displayed by the horse and his rider. There is a very old stone tablet in the ground in Pakistan that sums up their feelings about Polo.  It says ”Let others play at other things, the king of games is still the game of Kings”…

There is much to be learned about this ancient game of royalty that has persevered among the well-to-do as well as the ordinary man.  Their own field of dreams in our area is just up the road a piece in Jarrettsville,  there is almost a month left in their season, it is readily accessable from I95 and I695 , just follow 152 or Jarrettsville Pike, and check out one of their  sporting events.  You can visit them online at or call 410-557-6448, for a recorded hot line that will tell you if it has been postponed for wet field or any other reason.

Don Langrehr

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2 Responses to The Sport of Kings

  1. Keith says:

    Great story. It’s a little like hitting a golf ball while riding in the cart. Maybe I could play better that way. I’ll have to check out a polo match before the end of the season, it sounds like fun. Thanks for sharing the information!

  2. Trini says:

    Very interesting Don. I will have to read it again as not too much time now. However, it seems to be a fast game and a game for the Kings…I see there has to be a bond between man and horse.
    Keep these interesting articles comeing. Trini

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