Spectator's Guide To Polo

Polo is an exhilarating sport to watch! The combination of speed and athleticism of horse and rider along with the strategy of the game makes polo a great spectator sport. For the new spectator, it will be helpful to know a few details about the game to have a better understanding of what is happening on the field.

ABOUT THE GAME
An outdoor polo game is between two teams comprised of four players on each team. There is also one or two umpires on the field who control the game and call fouls. The objective of the game is to score a goal by sending the ball through the opposing team’s goal. Most outdoor polo games consist of 6 chukkers (periods) of 7 minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10-minute halftime.  When the umpire blows the whistle to signal that a foul has occurred, the clock stops so that both teams have time to set up for a penalty shot taken by the fouled team. The clock starts again once play has resumed.

An arena polo game is between two teams comprised of three players on each team. The objective is the same as the outdoor game. Arena polo consists of four chukkers of 7 minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10-minute halftime.

A polo field is 300 yards x 160 yards.
A polo arena is 300 feet X 150 feet and is usually played on a dirt or sand surface.


The initial direction of each team is decided at the beginning of the game. Teams move in the direction of their goal until the first goal is scored, after which teams switch goals. Direction is changed after each goal is scored. 

In arena polo, the direction is only changed after each chukker.

THROW-IN
The umpire bowls the ball in between the two teams, when the game begins or play resumes after a goal or foul.

THE LINE OF THE BALL
Players follow the line of the ball, an imaginary path along which the ball travels. It represents a right-of-way for the last player striking the ball and is the basis for most rules of the game. The player established on the line and traveling in the same direction with the ball on his/her right has the right of way over all other players. No opposing player or horse may cross the line of the ball in an attempt to make a play.

OFF SIDE
Refers to the right side of the horse and also called the mallet side. All players must use the mallet in the right hand.

NEAR SIDE
Refers to the left side of the horse.

RIDE OFF
Also known as a "Bump", is one of the most common strategic moves in the game. Two players make contact and attempt to push each other off the line of the ball, to prevent their opponent from hitting the ball. The horses must be traveling at the same speed, shoulder-to-shoulder at a 45-degree angle or less.

HOOK
A defensive player may prevent an opponent from hitting the ball by hooking or striking his/her mallet. This must be done safely and a player may not reach across his opponent's horse to make a hook.

HANDICAP
Players are given a handicap based on skill level & ability. A team’s handicap is the sum of all player's handicaps on the team. The team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the start of the match.