Garrard Countians introduce polocrosse to the area

October 06, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - A sport that is probably unfamiliar to most central Kentuckians is burgeoning on a Garrard County horse farm.

Jeff and Julie Cooper recently launched the Kentucky Polocrosse Club on their 25-acre Long Run Farm on Forks Church Road and held their first instructional clinic this past weekend.

Polocrosse, described by Julie Cooper as a "stick and ball sport played on a horse," dates back hundreds of years to Persia, but its current form was popularized in Australia.

"Our son got all of us involved," said Julie Cooper of their 12-year-old. "His interest spread to the other kids."

Polocrosse is played on a 160- by 60-yard field with six players on each team. Only three players per team are on the field per "chukka," which is an eight-minute time period similar to a quarter in football. Each match consists of four chukkas.


Players are referred to by their numbers. The No. 1 player is the primary offensive player who tries to score points, No. 2 is limited to the middle section of the field and plays both offense and defense, and No. 3 defends the goal. Teams score points by throwing the ball through their opponent's goal posts, while protecting their goal from the other team. All this while on the back of a horse.

"The horses add an element of danger," said Julie Cooper.

Last weekend's clinic involved three days of drills, scrimmages and instruction by clinician Bill Shuttles of North Carolina. While most of the participants were local, the Coopers did attract some young players from Alabama. Last June, they hosted a polocrosse tournament which attracted teams from seven states.

"It was a big deal for our newly formed club to host a regional tournament, to have the amount of people from the distances that they came," said Jeff Cooper.

The Coopers have their own polocrosse field and are currently looking for young club members. "Our club dues right now are very reasonable. Only $20 a year," said Julie. "Their parents bring their own horse."

Club members will take part in practice at Long Run Farm twice a month, usually on Sunday afternoons. People who are interested should call the Coopers at (859) 792-3967 or Diane Strong in Lexington at (859) 253-1670.

Both Jeff and Julie juggle their polocrosse hobby with full-time jobs. Jeff runs a home and business repair outfit called "Your Handyman" and is a member of the Garrard County school board. Julie runs a lesson and boarding facility and breeds Welsh and sport ponies.

The polocrosse outfit consists of a polo-type team jersey shirt, white pants, helmet and boots. Players carry a racket which resembles a stick with a mesh, basket-like end used to carry and move the ball.

"You can pick it up off the ground or pass it from player to player. You can bounce it off the ground, (or) roll it like a bowling ball." Players can try to take the ball away from an opposing player, which is called "giving wood."

The horses are trained to take part in polocrosse, but any breed of horse can be used, Julie said. "They have to be able to handle the swinging of the racket. And to be able to gallop in company," she said.

More of a sport of skill than an athletic event, polocrosse is catching on in popularity at the college level, said Julie. Midway College (near Versailles) is trying to form a team and West Point Naval Academy is also looking to add it, she said. "It's a natural fit for a college with an equestrian program."

According to, there are more than 6,000 players in the world. In England, the sport was once an indoor exercise used to teach people how to ride a horse. "Polocrosse is fun for the entire family - boys and girls, moms and dads, everyone from 5 to 75," a page on the Web site reads.

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