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Polo is played professionally in 16-countries. It is a team sport played on horseback, not to be confused with water polo. The objective is to score goals against an opposing team by hitting a small white plastic or wooden ball between the goal posts using the side of a long-handled mallet.
A game of polo lasts about 2-hours and is divided into 7-minute periods called ‘chukkas’. There are four to eight chukkas in a game, depending on the standard. At the end of each chukka there is an additional 30-seconds of play, or until play stops. There is a three-minute interval between chukkas, and a five-minute interval at half time. After each goal is scored the teams change ends.
The playing field is about 270m (300 yards) long by 150m (160 yards) wide. It is carefully maintained with closely mowed turf to provide a safe, fast playing surface.
Goals are posts that are set eight yards apart, centered at the end of each field.
During half-time, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called “divot stomping” which has developed to not only help replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horse’s hooves, but to afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialize.
A polo team consists of four mounted players and their mounts. There are no rules about the gender or age of polo players, there is also no segregation based on gender or age. Each player is given a rating (a handicap), which determines who he or she can play with. Polo must be played right-handed.
The four players on each team are assigned positions, designated by the numbers from 1 to 4 and worn on their team jerseys.
The Number 1 – is a forward, and attacking offensive player. The Number 1 is responsible for scoring goals; they are also expected to “ride-off” the opposing defensive player allowing a trailing teammate the opportunity to score. The
Number 1 should be an accurate hitter and concentrate on scoring opportunities.
The Number 2 – has an important role in offence, either running through and scoring, or passing to the Number 1 and getting in behind them. Defensively they will cover the opposing team’s Number 3. It is not uncommon for the best player on the team to play Number 2.
The Number 3 – is a tactical player and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number 2 and Number 1 as well as maintaining a solid defense. The best player on the team is usually the Number 3 player, usually wielding the highest handicap.
The Number 4 – is the primary defense player. They can move anywhere on the field, but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defense by the Number 4 allows the Number 3 to attempt more offensive plays since they know they will be covered if they lose the ball.