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Patrons advised on how to take sport to the next level

A recent debate over global rules has sparked a need for changes in polo. For one equestrian writer, GT Courbette, patrons should step away from…

A recent debate over global rules has sparked a need for changes in polo. For one equestrian writer, GT Courbette, patrons should step away from playing and help to publicise the real stars – the players.
Get the battle on and moving on the field, so everyone can experience high goal polo. That should be the mantra. Yet high society images are still the sport’s chief publicity machine.
I want to see the competitiveness, screaming and horses galloping. I want to watch the great riders and see the horses move like little dressage horses racing up the field.
I want to know who these players are and I want to hear about their horses and training ideas. I want to know more about the sport. Somehow, polo needs to blossom in a new direction to get the publicity that, in turn, will help bring a new phase into existence.
Currently, there are plenty of patrons (team owners) who play with the professionals. But how about if patrons stepped back from playing and helped to promote and finance from the sidelines? High goal polo would be exhibited in a brand new, unique way, especially in the US.
High goal is where the sport should now aspire, moving the wealth behind the players and horses to come forward, and bring what Argentina, where polo is ingrained in the culture, has given to the sport.
The paid professional is a fairly new concept so without the money you have a fierce competitor at the soul of the game wanting to win. With the patrons’ backing, high goal polo could reach new heights.
So, why not have a league of just professionals playing, where each team gets sponsored, supported and paid to go out and play on the field?
Start with one tournament a season of pro players, show the fierce battle on the field and keep the game moving. Publicise it like football, and get good cameras to pick up the field. Support the players with compensation by building a new vision and advertising campaign for the sport. This is where the patrons can help.
In the US, hockey, soccer and basketball show off their players by giving statistics, telling the audience who they are. I want the media to understand the sport instead of the mystique polo usually brings to the field. I don’t want to know who showed up to the game wearing high fashion, although elegance is part of the charm.
What I want to know is what the top Argentinians talked about before the game. What was their strategy? I want to know what horses went to England and Spain, and which ones were left in the USA. I want to know what a training day is like in Argentina.
The high goal polo world is an isolated entity of the horse industry. I became aware of high goal in 1998 when I arrived in Wellington, Florida for the season as a dressage rider and trainer. Dressage has its own problems with publicity, unlike show jumping.
To the bystander watching a dressage competition can be stale. But when you put music to the mix, well it becomes dramatic, and pleasing to the eye, even to the novice. Dressage has the possibility of turning more heads and creating an audience with the music as well as other publicity strategies. Polo has the same kind of potential.
When I went to my first high goal game, in 1998, I was hooked. One player had 10 horses. They had to be organised in order to get picked up on the best teams. These players knew that if they trained, brought good horses to the mix, acted professionally, that someone like the late Carlos Gracida would invite them to a game, and the world touring might begin.
I have met Argentine players who have given up law professions and solid careers to be professional polo players, throwing their futures to the wind. That excitement for the sport of polo is so special. I love to be around it. It’s so passionate.
 

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