DES MOINES, Iowa — David Sommers has been around horses his entire life but he didn’t start playing polo until 1988.
“I had no idea there was anything like this in Des Moines at that time, and I bought a horse three weeks later without a place to keep it,” he says with a laugh. Now he’s the president of the Des Moines Polo Club – trying to de-bunk a lot of the myths about the sport. First and foremost that it’s not just for the rich and famous. “It’s dirty, it’s sweaty, it’s a lot of hard work,” he explains.
It’s also a lot of fun, but before we ever get in the saddle we have to learn how to hit the ball. We do that on the ground with something called a “foot mallet” – so named because you use it on your feet, not on horseback. After a bit of practice on two legs, we get ready to try it on four.
We aren’t counting, but it’s pretty clear there are at least as many misses as hits and we’re quickly learning that being a polo player is a lot harder than it looks.
In terms of how physical the sport is, you definitely need upper body strength – but that’s not all. “We don’t ride in the seat,” David explains, “it’s not a sit down sport. You’re all over the back of the horse and it’s physically demanding. It’s like a lot of other sports where your core needs to be fittest and strong.”
The rider has to possess a lot of athleticism and skill – but so does the horse. They’re specially trained to play polo and groom Jenny Beecher says most of them are thoroughbreds that have retired from racing. Polo gives them a new career. It’s one we won’t be pursuing, but people who play polo say it is like nothing else. “It has been compared to cocaine,” David says with a chuckle, “it is an addiction.”
The event that got David hooked on polo back on 1988 is “Polo on the Green”. It’s a fundraiser for the Variety Club and it’s happening this Saturday. Learn more here http://www.desmoinespolo.com/