The Polo Basics
You don’t need to be a polo pro to attend our events, but it’s nice to know what’s happening on the field. Here’s what you need to know:
Each of the four players is assigned a position numbered from 1 to 4. No. 1 is the attacker, no. 2 is a midfielder, no.3 is the team’s tactical link, and No. 4 (also known as the “back”) is the defender at the back most position. While no. 1 and no. 2 play forward, no. 3 and no. 4 take on the defense.
The polo field is 300 yards long and 200 yards wide or the equivalent of about 270m x 180m. The three meter high goal posts are eight yards (approx. 7.2m) apart and are collapsible for safety reasons. A goal is valid every time the ball goes through the goal – regardless of how high the ball is hit.
A game has four to eight periods of play known as chukkas. One chukka is seven and a half minutes long with the clock being stopped every time there is any interruption. In lower goal games there are usually six chukkas a game. The breaks between each chukka are about three to five minutes long and this is when players have to change ponies. Sides are changed every time a goal is scored – which can be rather confusing for first-time polo spectators. The game is not stopped if a player falls off his horse but is not injured..
Line of the Ball
The line of the ball and the right-of-way make up the fundamentals of the game. The line of the ball is the imaginary path the travelling ball is expected to take. This line may not be crossed by the opponent. A player who is going straight after a ball he has hit, or the first player to swing into the line of a rolling or flying ball, without hampering the others, may not be intercepted by any other player as this could harm the player or the pony.
Hooking is a common defensive play. It means that a player can block the swing of the opponent by using his or her mallet to hook the mallet of the opponent swinging at the ball. A player may hook only if he or she is on the side where the swing is being made or directly behind an opponent. The most important rule in polo is always the safety of the horse!
Change of sides after each goal
One of the most important rules: the teams change sides after each goal. This rule stems from the hot and sunny colonies in India, where polo was played in the evening due to the high temperatures during the day. As the sun is low in the evening, it was a considerable disadvantage to play against the sun.
Playing at an angle that could be a danger to the pony and player
Playing at a higher speed than the opponent is riding
Riding into the opponent’s horse from behind the saddle. Opponents may only play as high as the pony’s shoulders
Riding crisscross in the way of a galloping player in an attempt to force him to reduce speed
Sideways parrying, pulling the opponent’s horse, or other similar acts that put the pony at risk of tumbling
Infringement of the right-of-way
Galloping head-on towards an opponent so as to intimidate him or force him into parrying or missing the ball even without fouling or crossing the line of the ball
Creating the so called “sandwich” whereby two teammates force a player of the opponent’s team into the middle
Intentionally riding into the opponents backhand or forward hit
Riding in a manner that could harm the referee
Penalties and free hits are taken at a distance of 30, 40, and 60 yards