Richard Mille polo team (HRH Prince Sultan Alfaisal, Amy Zedan, and Pablo Mac Donough) competed against Al Nahla Bentley polo team (Sheikha Alia Al Maktoum, Saad Audeh, and David “Pelon” Stirling). (Courtesy of Aline Coquelle)
Originally a training game for cavalry units in Central Asia, Polo is one of the world’s oldest known team sports,with a storied history dating back to the 6th century. Known as the “sport of kings,” it is a favorite among the British Royal family and other aristocratic followers includingWinston Churchill, who referred to a polo handicap as a“passport to the world.” Polo’s royal presence began with King George V, who was the first member of the House of Windsor to play, and remains strong today—Queen Elizabeth II has been an adoring fan throughout her life and her late husband, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh,was an extraordinary player. Beyond the royal family,polo has strong roots in high society, with the Hamptons and Palm Beach serving as the settings for prominent club memberships and prestigious tournaments. All this has certainly given the sport a highbrow stereotype, but Assouline’s book delves deeper into the sport’s heritage and peels back this stereotype to reveal a more diverse following.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles at a polo match in Palm Beach, Florida, 1985. (Terry Fincher Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
“I see polo as a sport that connects a groom fromArgentina to the Queen of England—and the total opposite of elitist,” says Nacho Figueras, who introduces the tome alongside photos taken by Parisian photographer Aline Coquelle. Born in Argentina, Figueras—captain of the Blackwatch Polo Team—is now one of the most famous players of all time and has earned himself a 6-goal handicap. In Argentina, Polo is more of a lifestyle than just a sport, and the country is host to the world’s three best international tournaments, known as the Triple Crown: Tortugas, Hurlingham, and the Palermo Open. InPoloHeritage, Figueras recalls his early days when he began playing polo at Monteverde-family estancia when he was just nine years old. It was here that he began to understand that horses are the most important part of the sport. “They are why we stay awake for hours when one is not feeling well or when a mare is about to give birth. We know how they move, what they eat, how much they need to be ridden the day before a game at their best…we care about them greatly, and they are the only reason we can all enjoy this sport as much as we do,” explains Figueras. D’Artagnan Giercke, who founded the Genghis Khan Polo Club in Mongolia, sees people’s love for horses, coupled with the adrenaline of playing, as what attracts diverse communities from all across the globe to the sport. “[Polo] combines multiple complexities into a single event. Man, horse, and teammates must work together to yield the best results. It has become a lifestyle.” From Barbados to Pakistan, Polo Heritage opens readers’ eyes to these special communities across the world. It’s one big polo family.
La Dolfina polo team, with Adolfo Cambiaso, faces offagainst polo team Ellerstina, with Facundo Pieres at the 2015 Argentine Open Championship final in Palermo, Buenos Aires. (Courtesy of Aline Coquelle)