SHERIDAN — They exchanged English riding saddles for their normal tack and capped themselves with the wide brims instead of helmets. The athletes of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo’s annual cowboy polo game gave the normal crowd of polo watchers a fresh perspective on the game to close out the week in Sheridan.
“It’s great,” HF Bar team member Turner Schroth said after helping her team earn a win in the first match. “It’s so much fun. It brings another different crowd to the place too.”
While the tailgating looked similar to any polo-filled Sunday at the Big Horn Equestrian Center — people hiding from the blazing sun under pitched tents and cutting chunks of watermelon to stay hydrated — the folks on the field took a different approach to the day.
The afternoon began as normal with an Eatons’ Ranch-sponsored polo match between nicely-dressed green and white players. Between the matches, volunteers brought out cones in front of the grandstand to shorten the playing field for the cowboy polo players. Before throwing the kickball in to start the action, players had to shotgun a Bud Light.
“People keep asking about the rules of cowboy polo,” polo announcer Ethan Galis said. “There are no rules in cowboy polo.”
Players helped earn the HF Bar Ranch two wins on Sunday and bragging rights for the year.
“We did actually practice yesterday, but just some of our wranglers from the ranch did,” Tobi West said of the HF Bar team.
West’s favorite aspect of the game was winning and the exhilaration of the game itself. The trick, though, is to keep control of the reins at all times.
“Hold on and don’t let your reins go because they’ll take them,” West said of her opponents.
Schroth earned her first goal ever after participating for the last three or four years. Her usual job consists of defense.
“Actually, the other team just called me the Tasmanian Devil because apparently I go in circles, messing with their horses and their reins and everything so my team can score,” Schroth said.
She continues to participate in cowboy polo each year for the thrill.
“It’s awesome,” Schroth said. “It’s an adrenaline rush, definitely, because you don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
The polo game of no rules gave ill-informed polo viewers a chance to not wonder what a chucker is or how long it will last.
For those unfamiliar with polo rules and standards, a chukker is the term used for each period. The U.S. Polo Association said most outdoor polo games consist of six chukkers of seven minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10-minute halftime. Playing left-handed was banned from polo in the mid-1930s for safety reasons and proper equipment, such as knee guards, remain essential for a traditional polo game.
Players are also required to wear a protective helmet secured by a chin strap or harness that meets industry standards. Horses receive leg wraps to protect their legs from injury while also providing support. The game remains co-ed and all players are rated on the same handicap scale. The outdoor polo field extends 300 yards and is 200 yards wide without boards. The goal posts, positioned at each end, are 8 yards apart.
The Big Horn Equestrian Center will continue to host polo matches throughout the summer, hosting practice games on Wednesdays and Fridays at 1 and 3 p.m. The Center website said Sunday polo starts with a “Margarita League” game at 9 a.m., practice chukkers at 10 a.m. and tournament games at 1 and 3 p.m. throughout July and August.