Is Playing Polo Expensive? a Breakdown of the Costs to Play.


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From my experience, I know owning and caring for a horse is expensive, and during a polo match, players use multiple horses. While watching teams swap out their horses, I began to wonder, how expensive is this sport?

Playing polo is expensive; the cost of a trained horse, plus its upkeep, puts polo out of reach for many people. Plus, you have to buy equipment, buy a horse trailer or pay to transport your horse and pay club and tournament fees.

To loyal polo players, the money is well spent even if they aren’t wealthy. But is the expense worth it to you? We look at the costs of getting involved in polo as an amateur– but also for an aspiring professional.

How Expensive Is Horse Polo?

While several polo clubs will allow you to spend $50 to get on horseback for a chukker, much of the world still see the sport as reserved for the high-income types. 

Polo has long been seen as a sport for the rich, often characterized by glossy magazine images of strong, handsome royals in horse-riding gear astride a thoroughbred.

But polo is gradually becoming more accessible to the general public. With thousands of people now signing up for weekend games at clubs all over the country, this ancient sport is slowly garnering new audiences. 

picture of a rider on a polo pony chasing a ball during a match,

To the untrained eye, polo is a blend of golf and hockey played on horseback. But what does it cost to play this game? To give you a clear picture, here’s a list of the basic requirements when playing polo:

  1. Purchasing elite horses, which of itself can run up to tens of thousands of dollars
  2. Training of horses, upkeep, and the cost of traveling to tournaments
  3. Cost of hiring “grooms” for training and exercising the horses
  4. Club fees and other relevant expenses
  5. Medical expenses for injuries to the rider, plus vet care

It’s hard to determine how much money you’re going to end up spending in a year – this is based on the kind of commitment you put into it. How much time are you willing to invest in the game?

And how committed are you to play against the best in your club or town? All these are factors that play into your finances and will determine your overall budget. 

How Can I Make Horse Polo Less Expensive?

If you get into the sport and want to learn as much as you can without spending a fortune, some clubs will offer weekly training that usually costs under $100.

Use this time to learn and interact with players of all levels as you prepare to invest your hard-earned money in the upcoming season. Polo seasons can start as low as $500- 1,000 for entry-level players at premium clubs.

The low prices are usually meant to attract beginner-types or people just looking to try out the sport for the first time out of curiosity. A good number of these people end up loving the sport and playing regularly. 

But remember, training and equipment account for a significant chunk of the entire cost, especially for long-term players.

Do I Have To Purchase A Polo Pony? 

If you’re playing as an amateur, you won’t need to set aside a small fortune to purchase a top-breed pony. Amateur enthusiasts usually start with one of the older horses, but even then, you will need a budget for weekly maintenance, and that can cost anywhere from $100 – $500 per week for a retired pony. 

If you come into the game with your horse, the club will probably allow you to play half slots with one or more players; and this means that you’re going to be sharing four chukkers among yourselves. 

But what if you don’t want the hassle of owning a horse; what then?     

You may be able to lease a horse for a season from a polo club, and this is convenient for anybody not used to owning a horse or amateur player not yet fully invested in the sport.

When playing in an outdoor arena, average club fees for a leased horse are about $150 per chukker and twice that if you play on a grass field. Spend a bit of time researching club fees and playing rules to find a good deal as a beginner.

The good thing about leasing a horse is that you won’t be making any long-term commitment to the game, so this gives you more flexibility to try out different clubs to find a community of polo players where you may join and make some polo friends.   

What Are The On-Going Costs Of Playing Polo? 

Polo is one of those sports that are played mainly out of passion, which means that they’re comfortable with the high costs and low pay as long as the experience is exhilarating.

For a club to keep the ponies in good condition and ensure excellent performance on the field, horse owners must cover the membership costs. Bear in mind that on average, the cost of putting together a tier 1 polo team during a 16-week Winter season can cost anywhere from $1-3 million.

These patrons are usually amateur players themselves and people with plenty of resources. The player salary and living expenses, equipment, trainers, barn fees, and vets are typically negotiated with the patron.

A polo match requires at least eight ponies, and each of the horses can be worth $50,000 on average. Polo horses are a particular breed with a unique skillset and a lot of training:

When all the horses have been acquired and trained; and all other preparations have been made, you still have to pay the tournament entry fees to begin competing in a new season’s tournament.  

In Conclusion

Polo is indeed expensive, but if you’re not playing in the “high goal” category, which is the highest competitive level of the game, there are ways that you can still enjoy time out on the pitch with a decent pony for a bargain.

Just look around different polo clubs and join communities in your city to find people that will offer advice and recommend the best places to try out. 

FAQ   

Is polo a rich sport?

Polo is considered a pricey game to get into mainly because the cost of owning and taking care of polo ponies can run up into the hundreds of thousands. Still, it is possible to enjoy the game without spending a great deal of money.   

Do polo players earn money?

At the highest level, a polo player can earn as much as $1.5 million a year, but entry-level players require a patron to generate revenue from the sport.
The tournaments organized at polo clubs are also a source of income for players though income is generally on the lower side than many other sporting professions. 

Is it expensive to own a polo pony?

Polo ponies are some of the most expensive horses to buy and maintain. A well-trained pony in its prime can go for more than $50,000. Several ponies are needed to play one full game (with a single horse per “chukker”).

What makes horse polo so expensive?

Polo ponies cost more than the average horse, contributing to the higher-than-average cost of playing in this sport.
Changing ponies every few minutes for each chukker is what makes the game exceptionally costly. Players then have to buy or lease up to 10 horses to keep up with medium or high-goal polo. 

Can the average person play polo?

Polo is not only a game for the ultra-rich, but the culture surrounding the game can make it seem out of reach for the average person.
However, polo clubs offer polo lessons at reasonable fees. On average, you can get professional polo lessons for $1,000- 1,500, but the cost varies based on location and the club’s exclusivity.   

Sources

  1. Featured image by Darrel Collins of Pixabay.
  2. The Economics of Polo, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/05/17/the-economics-of-polo-the-sport-of-kings/, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  3. Polo, The Rich Man’s Sport, Business Daily, https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/magazines/Polo–Why-its-the-rich–mans-sport/1248928-1318810-vq3ro9/index.html, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  4. You Don’t Have To Play Polo, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/b0cb9080-9655-11df-96a2-00144feab49a, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  5. Polo For The People, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/jun/09/polo-rich-people, Accessed 03/03/2021.

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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