|Polo has been termed the "sport
of kings", or sometimes the "king of sports".
However, one does not have to be a king to
play this game. The enjoyment of playing can
be achieved by owning only one horse or by
having a string of polo ponies. The challenge
of the game is to combine highly skilled athletic
ability and horsemanship with the efforts
of super trained mounts. Game tactics have
many similarities to those of soccer, hockey
and football. Yet, it is the terrific speed
combined with body contact and the darting
turns of the horses which gives polo its appeal
to spectators and players alike.
long sloping shoulders
through the girth
| The mounts are called polo ponies,
although they are horses ranging from 14.5 to 16
hands high at the wither (one hand equals four inches),
and weighing 900-1000 lbs. The polo pony is selected
carefully for great speed and stamina, similar to
the thoroughbreds at race tracks, as well as agility
and maneuverability, similar to the cow pony used
on ranches. When one can combine these traits and
train the horse to carry the rider smoothly and
swiftly to the ball, the horse can account for anywhere
from 70-80% of a player's ability and net worth
to his team.
| Each team consists of four mounted
players, which can be mixed teams of both men and
women. The Number 1 is expected to score the goals
and carry out an offensive position. The Number
2 is also an offensive player but has to be more
aggressive since his objective is also to break
up the defensive plays of the opposition. The Number
3 is the pivot man, similar to a quarterback in
football, and he is usually the long ball hitter
and playmaker for the team. He usually hits the
penalty shots and knock-ins. The Number 4, or back,
is the defensive player. He is usually the most
conservative player and his job is to guard the
goal and keep the opposition from scoring.
| The playing field is 300 yards long
by 150 yards wide, the approximate area of nine
football fields. The playing field is carefully
maintained with closely mowed turf providing a safe,
fast playing surface. Goals are posts which are
set eight yards apart at each end of the field.
| Mallets are made of bamboo canes,
or poly resins, which provide flexibility, and the
mallet heads of willow or maple. The mallets come
in lengths of 49 to 53 inches and selection is made
according to the height of the pony being played.
The ball is struck with the side of the mallet,
not with the end. The ball is made of bamboo, willow
root, poly resins, or leather (for indoor arena
polo). It's diameter is 3.5 inches and weighs about
4.5 ounces. All players must wear a protective helmet
with a chinstrap and preferably a faceguard. Knees
are protected with leather knee guards. The ponies
are provided with protective bandages or wraps on
all four legs. Tails are braided, taped or tied
to minimize interference in making the various shots.
| Play commences when the mounted umpire
bowls the ball between the players who line up opposite
each other in the centre field. The game consists
of six 7 minute periods called Chukkers,
during which players may change mounts. There is
a four minute interval between chukkers and a ten
minute halftime. Play is continuous and is only
stopped for penalties, broken tack (equipment) or
injury to horse or player. The object is to score
goals by hitting the ball between the goal posts,
no matter how high in the air. If the ball goes
wide of the goal, the defending team is allowed
a free 'knock-in' from the place where the ball
crossed the goal line, thus getting the ball back
into play. Teams change goals on ends of the field
after each score to minimize any wind advantage
which may exist. There are two mounted umpires who
officiate the game while a referee on the sidelines
makes all the final decisions concerning penalties
or infractions of the rules. Penalties and fouls
are described and explained in literature available
through the UPSA
(United States Polo Association).
| Each player is rated on a scale of
minus 2 to 10, by regional and national handicap
committees of the US Polo Association. A player's
handicap is based on his net worth to his/her team
with factors considered such as horsemanship, team
play, hitting skills, anticipation and overall understanding
of the game and its rules. The rating given to players
is termed in goals. For example, if four
three goal players formed a team, it would be a
12 goal rated team. If the opposing teams' handicap
totaled 10 goals, there would be a two goal advantage
to the first team at the start of the game. The
term "goals", is not a player's rating and is not
to be confused with how many times he/she will score
in a match, it is just a system of rating.
DUTIES OF THE SPECTATOR
| During our playing season, we welcome
all specators and enthusiasts who enjoy spending
an afternoon outside. Entry to all games is free
unless an organized tournament is taking place.
We encourage you to bring along your garden chairs,
picnic basket, and sporting spirit. Unlike most
sports, polo requires active spectator participation.
Before leaving for a game, you will want to prepare
a picnic, pack your camera and bring your binoculars,
remembering of course that you'll be spending time
outdoors, therefore appropriate outdoor dress is
necessary for your comfort. If you don't have time
to pack your picnic, several restaurants (offering
take-out service), are located nearby the polo fields.
Once you arrive at the game, be sure to park at
least ten yards back from the side of the field
and not at the end of the field. The objective is
to park by the game, not in it. Now you are ready
to participate in the game. First open your picnic
and remember the following points:
- Keep your eye on the ball and the horses.
Action frequently extends ten yards beyond the
edge of the field. Many unwary spectators have
narrowly escaped from a changing horse.
- Pets MUST be on a leash or rein and children
CLOSE at hand.
- Now for the fun part - you get to walk on
the turf. To golfers this is known as replacing
the divots. After the third and sixth chukkers
you will be ready to walk off your picnic. So
take a stroll and help maintain the field.
- Please return all polo balls hit out of bounds
to the umpires, goal judges or other club officials.
A player is permitted to ride into another player
so as to spoil his/her shot. The angle of collision
must be slight causing no more than a jar. The
faster the horse travels the smaller the angle
must be. A good bump can shake your dentures
Also called a period. There are four or six
chukkers in a polo game each lasting 7 minutes.
A player returns each chukker on a different
horse, although a player may rest one for a
chukker or two and play the horse again during
Any time a ball crosses the line between the
goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless
of whether a horse or a mallet caused the ball
to go through. In order to equalize wind and
turf conditions, the teams change sides after
every goal scored.
All players are rated on a scale of 1 to 10
(the higher the better). The handicap of the
team is the sum total rating of its players
and in handicap matches the team with the higher
handicap gives the difference in ratings to
the other team. For example a 6-goal team will
give two goals to a 4-goal team.
A player may spoil another's shot by putting
his mallet in the way of the striking player.
A cross hook occurs when the player reaches
over his opponent's mount in an attempt to hook;
this is considered a foul.
Should a team, in an offensive drive, hit the
ball across the opponent's backline, the defending
team resumes the game with a free hit from their
backline. No time-out is allowed for knock-ins.
The left-hand side of a horse.
A ball which is hit under the horse's neck from
The right hand side of the horse.
When a ball crosses the sideline or goes over
the side boards it is considered out of bounds
and the umpire throws in another ball between
the two teams at that point. No time-out is
allowed for an out-of-bounds ball.
Each of the 4 team members plays a distinctly
different position. Since polo is such a fluid
game, the players may momentarily change positions
but will try and return to their initial assignment.
No. 1 is the most forward offensive player.
No. 2 is just as offensive but plays deeper
and works harder. No. 3 is the pivot player
between offense and defense and tries to turn
all plays to the offense. No 4 or the Back,
is the defensive player whose role is principally
to protect the goal.
Penalty No. 6. When a defending player hits
the ball across his own backline, the other
team is awarded a free hit 60 yards from the
backline with the ball placed at the same distance
from the sideline as when it went out.
Hitting the ball behind and across the horse's
The referee sitting at the sidelines. If and
when the two umpires on the field are in disagreement,
the third man makes the final decision.
A chukker begins and many plays resume with
the umpires bowling the ball between the two
An umpire calls time-out when a foul is committed,
and accident occurs or at his own discretion.
A player may only call time-out if he has broken
tack or is injured. No time-out is allowed for
changing horses or replacing a broken mallet,
although a player may do so at any time.