Polo 101 will be outlining some brief basics to the fascinating game of polo:
Overview of the game of Polo
- Polo is like hockey on horseback. The team with most goals scored wins.
- An average Polo field is 300 x 160 yards. The equivalent of 8 soccer fields.
- The goal is 8 yards wide and the ball can go as high as you like as long as it is deemed between the posts.
- The game is divided into 6 or 7-minute periods called chukkas. A typical match length is the USA is 6 chukkas, in UK its more generally 4 chukkas except for high goal matches. Three minutes are usually given between chukkas and 10 minutes at half time.
- Two teams play each other and there are 4 players per team.
- A team is numbered from 1 to 4: #1 and #2 are the forwards; #3 is the pivot position (usually the best player in the team), and #4, or Back and main defender.
- Each player has a handicap from -2 to 10 (10 being the best) and the team’s handicap is the sum of all 4 players’ individual handicaps.
- There are usually 2 mounted umpires on the field and a “third man” on the sideline. This format changes a bit depending on the level of the tournament.
Basics of the Game
- The game begins with a throw-in where the umpire rolls the ball between the two teams who line up opposite each other.
- Generally, teams change ends after each goal is scored (except in Arena Polo and also some countries have now changed this to throwing in only at the start of every chukka). Either way, this can sometimes be confusing for the players as well as the spectators!
- You have to hit the ball with a mallet using the long side of the head of the mallet, not the end like in croquet.
- You have to hold the mallet with your right hand, regardless if you are left-handed or not.
- The ball can be hit on either side of the pony
- The main rule in polo concerns the “line of the ball”: an imaginary path the ball travels on. This line governs the right of way, a bit like the white line down the middle of the road.
- Crossing: Any play who crosses the player who has the right of way when it is considered to be dangerous or causes a player to slow up, commits a foul.
- You can hook an opposing players stick to prevent him from hitting the ball.
- You can “ride-off” or “bump” another player to move him over the right of way and gain possession.
- When fouls are made, penalties are given by having a free hit at the ball with opponents no closer than 30 yards away. These penalties are called by the number of yards they are from the goal. So there is a 30 yarder, a 40 yarder and a 60 yarder marked by spots and white lines or a spot hit where the foul occurred. All depending on placement and severity.
Ponies & Equipment
As a rule of thumb one would say a fresh pony is played per chukka. However, players can swap mounts at their discretion whenever they like.
“Polo ponies” are actually “horses” as they are over 14.2 hands in height. However originally there was a rule restricting their height, hence traditionally people still refer to polo horses as “polo ponies”.
In addition to normal riding wear, players have kneepads and a shirt in their team’s colours.
Ponies wear bandages or boots on their legs and their tails are “put up” in plaits with tape to keep them out of the way