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Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, Part 8

Finally, we started to see horses on the field of play. Here a trainer was putting her horse through its paces. Notice the braids in her hair that seem to mimic those in her horse's tail.

Then I spotted a rider who seemed to be getting the horse reacquainted with the mallet and the moves to be expected during the match. Her age and the fact that she was not wearing a jersey, suggests that she was also a trainer, not a player.

Finally the players mount their horses and start to trot around the grounds...

...getting both horse and rider ready for the competition.

The competitors line up at mid-field in two lines and in numeric order. The two mounted officials oversee the lineup then will do the "throw-in" by tossing the ball between the two teams. Game on!

Off they go from one end of the field to the other.

A polo field is somewhat bigger than a football field — according to what I found online, it is 275 meters (902 feet) by 180 meters (591 feet). The action can be a bit difficult to follow at the far end unless you have binoculars.

The horses are quite agile athletes and do a great job of turning as well as sprinting after the ball.

Because of the size of the horses, it can get quite congested as multiple players converge on the ball.

As a photographer, you never know what for sure you're going to get when you press the shutter. This rider and horse were in full gallop but it looks like the horse is just prancing up in the air — dancing almost.

An important concept in polo is the "line of the ball" which is an imaginary line going through the ball along its path of motion. Players must stay on one side or the other of the line of the ball as they approach to hit it. Failure to do that is a violation and the officials will call a penalty.

You can clearly see these two competitors approaching the ball along the line of the ball. You have to wonder if the player on the left will establish himself and his mount to the left or the right of the line. If he is to the right, it becomes a more difficult shot at the ball since he carries the mallet in his right hand.

Eventually, someone is able to make a successful shot on goal. I was obviously standing beyond the goal, in fact, some five yards past the back of the goal area but those horses come at you so fast, your life may flash before your eyes. One guy (some kind of judge, I'd guess) was a bit too close and the rider told him to back off. It was a little like holding the football with JJ Watt is bearing down on you.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com