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Claims by players for a foul generally expressed by the raising of mallets above the head or by a helicoptering motion. Over demonstrative appealing is considered very bad form.
White and made of plastic or wood. It weighs four and a half ounces and is three and a half inches in diameter.
A player is permitted to ride off another to spoil his shot or to remove him from the play. The angle of contact must be no more than 45 degrees. The faster the pony travels the smaller the angle must be. A good bump can shake discs and dentures loose.
Along the length of the field on each side runs boards. They are no more than 11 inches high and stop the ball from bouncing out of play. They are low enough that horses can easily ride over them. The players do not go out of bounds by going over the boards, only the ball.
There are between four and eight chukkas (periods) played in a match, each lasting seven minutes plus up to 30 seconds of over-time. If, during the extra 30 seconds, the ball hits the sideboards or goes out of bounds, or if the umpire blows his whistle for a foul, the chukka is over. There is no over-time at the end of the final chukka unless the score is tied. Players return to the field each chukka with a fresh pony. Chukka comes from the Indian word for a circle or round.
Turf kicked up by ponies’ hooves. Divots are traditionally “treaded in” or “stomped” at half-time.
The back lines of a polo pitch. Teams change ends, i.e. switch the halves they defend, each time a goal is scored in order to equalise wind and turf conditions.
Hard helmets and kneepads for players are compulsory. Whips and spurs are optional.
A full size polo field is 300 yards by 160 yards, or the area of three soccer pitches. The goal posts, which collapse on severe impact, are set eight yards apart.
When the rules are broken it is called a foul. A penalty is incurred.
Any time the ball crosses, at any height, the line between the goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless of who knocks it through, including the pony.
All players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10 (the higher the better). Although the word ‘goal’ is often used after the rating, it bears no relation to the number of goals a player scores in a match, but to one’s overall playing ability. A player’s horsemanship, range of strokes, speed of play, team and game sense are the factors considered in determining their handicap. The team handicap is the sum of its players’ handicaps. For matches other than six chukkas, the side with the lower handicap starts with a number of goals start according to the following formula. The difference in the teams handicaps is multiplied by the number of chukkas to be played and then divided by six. Fractions count as half a goal. For example, a 26-goal team would give a 24 goal team 11/2 goals start in a four chukka match.
Provided the player is on the same side of the opponent’s pony as the ball, he may spoil the opponent’s shot by putting his stick in the way of the striking player’s.
Three minutes long rest periods between chukkas. Half time is five minutes. During this time players will swap horses, rehydrate themselves and discuss any change in tactics.
Goal judges are positioned behind each goal to signal whether a goal has been scored. Hard hats are worn for protection. They use a flag to signal whether the ball has gone through the goal or to the side.
Should a team hit the ball across the opponent’s backline during an attack, the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from the backline wherever the ball went over. It is equivalent to a goal kick in soccer. This is not the same if the ball goes over the side.
Line of the Ball
‘Crossing the line’ is the most frequent foul in polo. The line of the ball, namely the imaginary line along which the ball travels, represents a right of way for the player following nearest that line. There are strict rules governing opponents entry in to the right of way.
The shaft is usually made from bamboo cane and the head from a hard wood. The wide face of the mallet head is used to strike the ball and not the ends, as in croquet. Polo mallets range in length according, principally, to the height of the pony played, and extend from 48 to 54 inches.
The left hand side of the pony.
A ball which is hit under the pony’s neck.
When a ball goes over the sideboards, it is considered out-of-bounds. The umpire throws the ball in between the two teams lined up at the point at which it left the field of play. See line out.
The right hand side of the pony.
A free hit towards goal is awarded when a foul is committed. The hit is taken from a set distance, dependent on the severity of the offence. Distances are as follows:
Penalty 1: Automatic goal Penalty 2: 30 yards to an open goal Penalty 3: 40 yards to an open goal Penalty 4: 60 yards to a defended goal Penalty 5: from anywhere on the ground Penalty 5B: from the center of the ground
Although termed ‘ponies’ they are in fact horses- ie, above the 14.2 hands height of a normally defined pony. Most are of the Argentinean Criollo breed or pure or cross thoroughbreds. Their main qualities are speed and stamina; the ability to accelerate, stop and turn quickly; and temperaments that are amenable to the rigours of the game. Players admit that the pony can account for as much as 80 per cent of their overall performance. See The Horse
Each of the four team members play a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, players must momentarily change positions, but will try to return to their original assignment. No. 1: essentially a goal striker. No. 2: also a forward, but plays harder, especially on defence. No. 3: the pivotal player between offence and defence who tries to turn all plays to offence. He is usually the highest rated player on the team. No. 4: or back, is the most defensive player whose primary responsibility is to protect the goal area. See The Game
The number of players in a team.
Two riders may make contact and push each other off the line to prevent the other from striking the ball. It is primarily intended for the ponies to do the pushing, but a player is allowed to use his body, but not his elbows.
Also known as a Penalty 6, a safety is awarded when a defending player hits the ball over his own backline, the shot is taken 60 yards out from the backline, opposite the point at which the ball went over. It is equivalent to a corner in soccer and no defender can be nearer than 30 yards from the ball when it is played.
These are nine to eleven inch high vertical boards along the sidelines only.
Hitting the ball behind and under the pony’s rump.
The referee sitting at the sidelines who will arbitrate if the two mounted umpires on the eld are unable to agree a foul.
The two opposing teams will line up facing each other in their number order. The umpire will then throw the ball down the middle for the teams to compete for. This is similar to a rugby line out. It occurs at the very beginning of the game, when the ball goes out over the sides or the umpires disagree on a decision.
Called by an umpire when a foul is committed, an accident occurs or at his discretion. A player may call time-out if he has broken a key piece of tack or is injured. Time-out is not permitted for changing ponies or for replacing a broken mallet, although a player may do so at any time.
The replacement at half time of divots of turf. This is the duty of all spectators – at shoes are required.
Two mounted umpires (one for each side of the field) who regulate the game. They usually wear striped shirts.
The team patron
World Wide Handicaps
The handicaps of players can change depending on which country they are playing in. There is no universal handicapping system.
Polo players wear white pants as part of the equipment. The pants are mostly made of a jean material.
In the event of a tied score at the end of the final chukka, there will be a five minute break to allow the players to catch their breath and change to a fresh mount before beginning a sudden-death chukka. The first team to score wins. In extra time, the goal area is usually widened by moving the goal posts an extra 8 yards apart.
The area around the pitch that is out of bounds for the spectators during play. This is 10m on the sides, and 30m at the ends of the field