The Prehistoric Origins of Polo

Fernando Arteaga (Miami)

Principal and director of design with HKS in Miami, Florida, Fernando Arteaga builds upon decades of experience as an architect and large-scale construction project leader. Although Fernando Arteaga lives in Miami, he has won multiple polo competitions in Asia.

The sport of polo predates recorded history and marks an important milestone in the interspecies relationship between humans and horses. Archeologists and historians generally agree that polo was the first of all equestrian sports, originating in the ancient country of Persia (modern-day Iran) in the sixth century BC.

Polo began as game to help train the king’s guard and other elite cavalry units, who approached it as if it were a small battle. These early polo matches could include up to 100 competitors on each team.

The sport quickly spread from the military to the nobility of Persia, and gradually solidified into a standardized format with formalized rules. Before long, polo play became common in the neighboring regions of Turkey, India, China, Japan, and Tibet.

The Real Stars of Polo – Polo Ponies

Fernando Arteaga | Miami

Fernando Arteaga prepared for a career in architecture and design, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture and urbanism from Iberoamerican University in Mexico City, a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the Polytechnic University of Catalunya in Barcelona, and an MBA from Harvard University. He has worked with firms in Mexico City, New York, Chicago, Singapore, Dubai, and Miami, and currently serves as a principal and design director in the Miami, Florida offices of HKS. HKS is an international architecture and design firm with offices in 24 major cities worldwide. As an active sportsman outside the office, Fernando Arteaga enjoys skiing, scuba diving, and playing polo.

The object of polo, a team sport played on horseback, is to score goals by hitting a ball with a long-handled mallet through a pair of goalposts on a 300-yard field, while preventing the opposing team from scoring goals. There are four riders to a side, and the game is played in periods of 7.5 minutes called chukkas. Riders typically change mounts after each chukka, and each player thus brings several horses to a match.

Although the riders hit the ball and score the goals, it’s the ponies who are the real stars in this fast-moving sport. The consensus among the sport’s afficionados and experienced players is that the pony contributes up to 75 percent of the value of the player-pony duo, meaning the pony makes the player, not the other way around. They’re not really ponies, but full-grown horses chosen for their speed, agility, and intelligence. Although they’re not necessarily of any specific breed or bloodline, most good polo ponies are three-quarters or more Thoroughbred. They gallop throughout the chukka, following the ball and responding to the rider’s instructions, sometimes turning 180 degrees at full gallop.

Training for polo ponies generally starts around age 3 and can last for two or more years. Polo ponies are generally used exclusively in the sport until they retire, often in their late teens or early 20s. Many retired polo ponies go to live on breeding farms, or to horse-loving families as pets.

A Primer on the Game of Polo

Fernando Arteaga: Miami

A resident of Miami, Fernando Arteaga holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Ibero-American University. Fernando Arteaga recently served as the principal of HKS, a company that provides architectural and interior design services for luxury and five-star resorts. Away from work, Mr. Arteaga enjoys playing polo.

A team sport played on horseback, polo games are held outdoors on a 300 by 160-yard grass field or indoors in an arena measuring 300 by 150-feet. Two teams compete against one another as players try to drive a ball into the opposite team’s goal using a bamboo mallet. Each team has three players in games that are held indoors, whereas each team has four players in games that are held outdoors.

Polo games consist of from four to six play periods, which are referred to as chukkers. The winning team is the one who achieves the highest score at the end of the game, and a game can go into overtime if the teams are tied after all chukkers have been played. Polo games are officiated by two umpires, each on horseback, and a referee who is positioned on the sidelines.

An Overview of Polo for Beginners

Fernando Arteaga - Miami

A career architect and resident of Miami, Florida, Fernando Arteaga is the principal at HKS, a luxury architecture and design firm. When he is not working, Fernando Arteaga of Miami, Florida enjoys several hobbies, such as playing polo. He has won competitions in the sport.

Polo is a game that is played on a field that measures 10 acres and roughly the size of 10 regulation-size football fields. Goalposts are at each end of the playing surface with eight yards between them. Teams can have four players on the field at a time. The players ride horses and try to score on their opponent’s goal using a ball and mallet.

Each match typically lasts an hour and a half and is split up into periods or chukkers that last seven minutes. There are three minutes between each chukker as well as 15-minute halftime. Every time a team scores a goal they change direction on the field. As safety is the main concern, there is plenty of protection for both players and horses, and the horses normally only play two chukkers per match, which equals 14 minutes of play.

Polo – A Brief History of the Game

Fernando Arteaga, Miami

A Florida-based architect with over 25 years of experience, Fernando Arteaga has served as principal of HKS in Miami since 2019. In this role, he oversees the architecture and interior design of luxury resorts throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. Outside his work in Miami, Fernando Arteaga enjoys various activities, including skiing, diving, and playing polo.

With origins dating back to at least 600 BC, polo is an ancient game that was first played by nomads in Central Asia. While polo has always been played for sport, the earliest versions of the game also provided training for war.

Polo’s popularity followed the Asian nomads’ migration to Persia (modern-day Iran), where its popularity among nobility and military men helped it become a national sport. The game eventually caught on in other areas of the world, including India, China, and Japan.

It was in India where the modern game of polo developed. By the mid-19th century, a polo club had been established in India and the game was beginning to catch on in England, Ireland, Australia, and Argentina. Polo reached the United States by way of New York in the late 19th century, and was soon being played throughout North America.

Today, polo is played in over 80 countries, and international tournaments are held worldwide. Major tournaments include the Federation of International Polo World Polo Championship, which will next be held in October 2022.