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Who A polo match comprises two teams, each with four players. The players on each team are numbered 1 through 4, which represents a general role as follows:

1 I Goal Scorer. Pushes forward aggressively and seeks openings into which teammates can hit. Marks the opposing team’s number 4 or Back.

2 I Energizer. Always involved in the play while quarterbacking the offense and trying to neutralize the other team’s top player.

3 I Field Captain. Typically the best player on the team; directs the flow of the game.

4 I Defender. Plays at the back of the game to prevent the other team from scoring.

Every player on the field carries a handicap from -2 to 10 goals, based on his or her skill and horsemanship as determined by a national handicap committee, with 10 representing the top of the game. More than 80 percent of players are rated one goal or less. This handicap does not necessarily correlate to the number of goals a player will score but rather his or her net worth to the team. The handicap system is designed to make all games even and competitive. In an eight-goal tournament, the rating of all four players on a team may not exceed eight goals. If one team is eight goals and its opponent six, the latter stars with a two-goal advantage.

What Polo is played in six seven-minute periods, or chukkas, with a 15-minute halftime. Teams change ends after each goal is scored. To help you follow along, here are some basic terms the announcer will use during the game: 

Throw-In: Teams line up facing the umpire, with players on their respective side of the center line for the umpire to bowl the ball between them to commence play. After a goal is scored, teams return to the center and switch sides before recommencing play.

Knock In: Occurring when the offensive team hits the ball over the back line wide of goal. The defending team then plays the ball from the point at which it went over the back line.

 Offside/Nearside: When seated on a horse, the offside refers to the player’s right side and the nearside refers to his left side. Shots can be played forward or backward on either side.

Hook: A defensive tactic used when a player makes contact with an offensive player’s mallet before it hits the ball. This contact makes it nearly impossible for the offensive player to hit the ball.

Ride Off: When a player uses his horse to push another player away from hitting the ball, or out of the play. Ride-offs are only legal when the two horses are parallel, the players are saddle-to-saddle, and they are going the same speed.

 Line of the Ball (LOB): This refers to the path along which the ball travels after it’s hit.

 Neck Shot/Tail Shot: The former is played under the horse’s neck; the latter, beneath and behind the tail.

 Tack Time: A stop in play called by the umpire if a player’s tack is broken to ensure the safety of all players and horses on the field.

 Divot Stomp: During half time, all spectators are invited onto the field to put back the divots made by the horses to ensure the field is safe and smooth during the second half.

Where A regulation-size polo field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, roughly 10 times the size of a football field. Goals are located at each end of the field and are eight yards apart and 10 feet high. Side boards are usually about a foot high and run along the side of the field from end line to another. A ball may travel through the goal at any height. The teams also switch directions after every goal to compensate for sun, field, or wind advantages.

When Polo is played throughout the world. It is the national sport of Argentina, which produces more top-rated professional players than any other country in the world. The handicap system is widely recognized internationally for ease of international play. The Myopia season runs June through September on historic Gibney Field, the oldest continuously used field in the country, adjoining Winthrop Field with a feature game each Sunday at 3 p.m. Across Route 1A, a Coaching League and Junior Polo program take place in the Joseph Poor outdoor arena.


Helmet: With or without face guard

Mallet: Usually made from bamboo, length ranges from 49 to 54 inches, depending on the pony’s height and the player’s preference

Saddle: English-style

Tail: Braided and tied up to prevent interference with the mallet

Bandages: Horses’ legs are wrapped for protection

Knee Guards: Protect players’ knees during ride-offs

Boots: Brown leather

Polo Pony: In the United States, thoroughbred horses are often bred with Quarter horses to produce polo ponies

Bridle: Two sets of reins for better control

Whip: Made from nylon-wrapped fiberglass with a leather handle for a better grip

How The rules dictating the flow of the game are vital to those playing, but often little understood by those watching. Two mounted umpires on the field consult each other each time one blows a whistle to stop play. If the umpires are in agreement, a foul is called and a penalty shot is awarded to the fouled; if in disagreement, they consult a referee, or “third man,” who is seated on the sideline. If they determine no foul occurred, a throw-in restarts play.

The dynamics of polo revolve around the line the ball is traveling when hit and the right-of-way of the player most closely following this line. No player can cross this line if it would cause any danger to the player most closely following it. A defending player can attempt to ride a player off of the line or prevent his shot by hooking the mallet. Crossing the line is the most common foul in polo. Other fouls include dangerous riding or use of the mallet, and unsportsmanlike conduct for overtly appealing a foul or arguing with the umpires.

Foul shots are awarded to the team fouled. Penalty levels range from one to six, depending on the severity of the foul, the danger of the play, and where on the field it occurred. Most penalty shots are taken from the point of the foul or 60 yards from a defended goal, or at 30 or 40 yards from an undefended goal.

Why As in any equestrian sport, polo is all about the horses. Polo ponies (mostly thoroughbred horses, but traditionally called ponies) are the most versatile of equestrian athletes. They run up to 35 miles per hour, as race horses, stop, pivot like a cutting horse, bump and “ride off” each other, and occasionally contend with being accidentally hit by a ball or mallet.

The quality of a player’s horses-most players play four to six in a game-is a source of great pride and prejudice for each player and often makes the differences between a winning and losing effort. The challenge and thrill of coordinating athletically with horses is the ultimate reason that participants thrill to the sport.