At the end of a half-mile gravel road in Hartland sits a large fenced field that comes alive with galloping horses.
Welcome to the ground of the Detroit Polo Club.
Located not far from the bustle of M-59 and U.S. 23 off of Bergin Road, members conducted their final scrimmage of the season Sunday on a mild early fall day.
But while the field is among large homes that boast plenty of property, members of the Royal Oak-based club say the sport is affordable and it’s a common misconception that polo is only an aristocratic past-time.
“The sport gets a bum rap,” said George Kuper, past president of the club. “Everyone here is as different as they come. The game is why we are here — 80 percent is the horse and 20 percent is what you do with the horse.
“Life really didn’t come alive for me until I started playing polo. It’s a way of life, as well as a family sport.”
Mary Goodman, of the UM polo team had her own answer:
“The speed. It is really exhilarating chasing other horses,” she said.
Polo in Hartland
Polo, a sport dating back to ancient times, involves teams of four riders who compete against each other with mallets and a small ball in order to get as many goals as possible, according to Joe Gilbert of the University of Michigan polo team.
The match is composed of four to six seven-and-a-half minute long sections, or “chukkers,” Gilbert said, with the main rule being to follow the line of the ball. Players are only allowed to play right handed.
Currently the club holds runs its season from May through September, holding charity games as well as helping to support the University of Michigan and the Michigan State University polo teams. Both teams use the Hartland playing field in the fall to hold its practices.
The club’s final formal competitions are in August with the Governor's Cup, and in September with McEntyre Cup. The club won the Governor's Cup in 2010.
Merle Jenkins, of Novi, founded the Detroit Polo Club around 1965, and was a polo player for the Ivory Rangers Polo Club of Detroit.
“Polo is the greatest sport in the world to play – I enjoy the horses as well, the biggest part of the sport,” said Jenkins, who is in the Polo Hall of Fame and has played the sport up until four years ago.