Stately horses galloped the lawns of Historic Palm Circle as Hawaii’s best polo teams demonstrated exquisite horsemanship for a polo demonstration held at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, May 15, 2023.
General Charles A. Flynn, the U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, hosted Army senior leaders and several allied and partner nations to showcase the Army’s historical ties to polo.
To kick-off the celebration Flynn pitched the first ball.
Donned in Army black and gold, well-mounted players took powerful swings with mallets striking a ball the size of an orange. The wooden ball zipped down the long, grassy field.
The fast-moving action lasted 20 minutes or about three chukkas, a 7-minute period of play in polo. But every minute kept spectators on their feet.
The polo demonstration is just one event to ramp up the excitement for Land Forces Pacific Symposium and Exposition, the professional development forum that highlights the role of land forces in the Indo-Pacific theater and its contributions to the joint force in peace and war. This year makes the 10th anniversary of the event held May 16-18, 2023 in Honolulu.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division performed the Ha’a, or “Warrior Dance,” ceremony to welcome Soldiers, families and LANPAC attendees.
Spectators were also given a brief history lesson on the Army’s connection to polo.
The Army’s love affair with horses dates back to the Revolutionary War, the Westward expansion and the formation of the U.S. Cavalry.
In Hawaii, the first recognized polo match was November 1880, near Palama, officers from the British ship “Gannet” played men from Honolulu. Soon after, a polo field was established at Kapiolani Park, near Diamond Head and the sport flourished.
Before World War II, matches were almost every weekend. Military officers played among the local teams. One famous competitor was then Lt. Col. George Patton, who went on to be an icon of World War II.
Polo was first played on Palm Circle in 2011 as part of “Polo Pa’ina,” an inaugural polo match between Army Gold and Army Black.
Allen Hoe, the president of the Honolulu Polo Club, who has studied Hawaii’s origin of the sport, said the demonstration gives younger Soldiers an introduction to the Army’s unique equestrian culture.
“Some Soldiers are surprised to learn the Army moved by horseback 70 years ago,” said Hoe. “Polo is an exciting event to witness. It is man and horse working together as a team to accomplish success in the game.”
Hoe wanted to share his love and passion for the sport with other service members. The former Vietnam War veteran and self-described adrenaline junkie was first introduced to polo 40 years ago and still rides today at the age of 76.
“Polo is a high-octane sport that forces the player to devote all of their focus, energy and mindset on basically staying alive,” said Hoe. “It is physically demanding and requires flexibility, endurance and riding expertise. It is the closest thing I’ve experienced to combat.”
A partnership between the Association of U.S. Army, the Hawaii Polo community and the U.S. Polo Association was formed in part to Hoe’s efforts.
The initiative was created to honor the long-standing tradition of polo in Hawaii, honoring Soldiers and their families and raising awareness to support Wounded Warriors.
For Spc. Jordan Howard, a signal intelligence analyst from the 516th Signal Brigade, witnessing the demonstration opened his eyes to the Army’s rich heritage.
“This is my first time watching the sport, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Howard. “I like how they dived into the history of polo and the Army connection. It gives me a different perspective of the Army, I see it in new light.”